Restaurant Workers and The Hidden Story of #MeToo

Posted on January 26, 2018 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Msgr. Sullivan Takes This On & More on JustLove

As widespread harassment of elite Hollywood stars and Olympic skaters dominate the news, Msgr. Kevin Sullivan takes on the still hidden exploitation of workers we meet every day - waitresses and minimum-wage workers - in his powerful  JustLove Sirius XM The Catholic Channel radio show.

For the inside story he spoke with Diana Ramirez, a deputy director of the Restaurant Opportunity Center and Katie Johnson, a Boston Globe reporter who concentrates on covering workplace and income inequality.

While the stories of exploitation they shared match the horror faced by stars and skaters, the people hurt have even less power to fight back.  Restaurants get away with paying waitresses just $2.13/hour, Ms. Ramirez says, by claiming tips make up the difference.  When tips don’t cut it, complaining waitresses often face restaurant managers’ accusations of subpar service.  

Meanwhile, statistics reveal that waitresses are five times more likely to be sexually harassed than workers in any other industry.  Diners often act as if they have as much right to comment on waitresses’ appearance as they have to comment on their rare stake.

“The restaurant industry is creating this really really horrible high standard for sexual harassment that permeates every other industry,” Ms. Ramirez says.  “It's no wonder that it's now blowing up in Hollywood  - because guess where all of the actors and actresses work before they made it big!”

Harassment and exploitation while working as a waitress nearly destroyed Ms. Ramirez’ sister, Ms. Ramirez tells Msgr. Sullivan in this captivating JustLove segment, and inspired Ms. Ramirez to work for the Restaurant Opportunity Center. 

Her sister began working for restaurant tips as a teen, Ms. Ramirez explains.  The sexual harassment she experienced destroyed her sense of self, leading her to become a stripper where, if nothing else, she knew what to expect and was guaranteed higher tips.

By working for the Restaurant Opportunity Center, Ms. Ramirez became part of the movement pushing for fair wage initiatives to protect women from facing choices like that of her sister.

However, even significant increases from the minimum wage – still only $7.25/hour in some states – can leave full-time workers struggling on the margins, says Boston Globe reporter Katie Johnson as she joins this JustLove discussion.

“Even bringing the minimum wage up to $15 an hour you’re still only making $30,000 a year,” Katie says.  “That’s a fairly low wage and more and more people are relying on the minimum wage to support their families and put food on the table.”

Catch more of this powerful discussion on JustLove

JustLove airs weekly on Saturdays at 10am and Sundays at 5am EST on SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio on The Catholic Channel 129.