Surviving on $5: Women Workers In The New York State Restaurant Industry



Time: 8:30am - 10am
Location: No location set


Surviving on $5:  Women Workers in the New York State Restaurant Industry

As the 2014 legislative session begins in Albany, the Women’s Equality Agenda (WEA), which includes such measures as safeguarding reproductive health, ending pregnancy discrimination, and expanding sexual harassment protections, is front and center on the legislature’s to do list.  Women’s economic security is crucial to their ability to access many of the basic rights and protections included in the WEA.

Women workers in New York’s restaurant industry face high rates of economic insecurity.  The vast majority of tipped restaurant workers in New York State are women, including 73% of New York’s 140,000 servers.  New York law permits these workers to earn a sub-minimum wage of just $5 per hour, or roughly $200 per week for a full time job.  As a result, tipped restaurant workers rely on tips to survive.

A server making the tipped minimum wage of $5 per hour may not be able to afford a doctor’s visit or may not have the luxury of taking time off from work to access reproductive healthcare needs.  A woman whose ability to pay rent or to feed her children depends on her customers’ generosity, may feel less comfortable standing up to sexual harassment.  And a pregnant woman living off tips may opt against taking a much-needed bathroom break for fear that any delay will be reflected in the tips her customers leave.

Join the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York,  Ms. Foundation for Women, and The Murphy Institute for breakfast and a panel discussion about economic insecurity among women workers in New York’s restaurant industry.   Speakers will explore questions such as:

  • What challenges do female tipped workers face working for a sub-minimum wage of $5 per hour?
  • What workplace risks arise for women in the industry when their economic security relies on how satisfied their customers are?
  • How does the instability inherent in living off tips affect women’s ability to find and pay for childcare?
  • Does economic insecurity among women workers in the restaurant industry create barriers to reproductive healthcare access?

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Saru Jayaraman, Co-Director of ROC-United and author of “Behind the Kitchen Door”
  • Emily Kadar, NARAL Pro-Choice New York
  • Nakima Jones, New York City Restaurant worker & ROC-NY member
  • Catherine May Saillard, owner of ICI Restaurant 


  • Aleyamma Mathew, Senior Program Officer, Ms. Foundation for Women

Invited Speakers:

  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, United States Senate
  • Alphonso David, Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the New York State Governor

When:             Thursday, January 16th 2014, 8:30am – 10am

Breakfast will be provided.  RSVP for the address: