Last week, a group of 16 actresses, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Jane Fonda, Natalie Portman, Lily Tomlin, Amy Poehler, Reese Witherspoon, Brie Larson, Debra Messing, Ashley Judd and Sarah Silverman, decided to take their campaign against sexual harassment to New York, sending a letter to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urging him to eliminate the state’s tip credit for restaurant workers. They wrote, “Relying on tips creates a more permissive work environment where customers feel entitled to abuse women in exchange for ‘service.'” The actresses called for a higher minimum wage instead.
But this week, hundreds of mostly-female restaurant professionals, mostly from New York, fired back with a letter telling the actresses to leave their tips alone. The workers are some of the 14,000 New York restaurant professionals and supporters urging Cuomo to leave the tipping system and the tip credit alone.
The letter stated:
To the celebrity women who recently criticized the full-service restaurant industry, from over 500 women and men who work in it: Thank you for your concern. But we don’t need your help, and we’re not asking to be saved.
You’ve been misled that we earn less than minimum wage, and that we’re somehow helpless victims of sexual harassment. These untruths are the product of the Restaurant Opportunities Center, which does not represent us or the thousands of our colleagues who stand with us. We don’t have the platform you have, so we’re forced to organize online to defend the tipping system against myths spread by its critics.
We get to offer our opinions on your movies; you get to offer opinions on the food we serve, and our service. What you don’t have the right to do is dictate how we are paid. Servers and bartenders have never been paid the ‘same’ as everyone else, and we are okay with that. We are paid based on our sales and service; we’re guaranteed minimum wage, and our tips let us earn much more than that. …
Bad behavior happens in every industry—Hollywood celebrities should know better than most that sexual harassment happens everywhere. The people who are pushing for this change in the restaurant industry are exploiting the isolated stories of people that have suffered injustices, and making it out to be the industry’s or the tipping system’s fault. That is just not true.
We’re servers and bartenders by choice, just like you chose to be actresses. The industry gives us flexibility, and the current tipping system gives us opportunity to earn great money with less-than full time hours.
We respect your profession, and now it’s time for you to respect ours.