Policy Brief: A Summary of Research on Restaurant Workers and the Impacts of Covid-19

A series of reports document the effects of the pandemic on unemployment insurance, wages, and harassment in the service sector.

July 31, 2022
By Berkeley Food Institute, the UC Berkeley Food Labor Research Center, and One Fair Wage

On August 1-3, the BFI policy team will travel to Denver, Colorado, to attend the National Convention of State Legislatures Annual Legislative Summit. There, the team will team up with One Fair Wage (OFW) and the Food Labor Research Center in support of a one fair wage for restaurant and service workers throughout the United States.

In anticipation of the summit, we have prepared a policy brief detailing recent research from OFW and the Food Labor Research Center, published in the following three reports.

Help Wanted: The Impact of Ending Unemployment Insurance on Restaurant Workers’ Willingness to Work for Subminimum Wages (July 2021)

This brief summarizes findings from a new survey of 287 current and former service workers in five states (Arizona, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Florida, Texas) that have prematurely ended feder- ally-funded unemployment benefits.

Raising Wages to Reopen: Restaurants Nationwide Raising Wages to Save Their Businesses After Covid-19 (September 2021)

The Covid-19 pandemic caused massive upheaval in the US restaurant industry. Over a two-week period, the report documented over 1,600 restaurants across 41 states that have raised wages to pay the full minimum wage with tips on top, with an average wage of about $13.50. The majority of restaurants in these states were paying a subminimum wage of $5 or less earlier that year.

Unlivable: Increased Sexual Harassment and Wage Theft Continue to Drive Women, Women of Color, and Mothers Out of the Service Sector (April 2022)

The subminimum wage has long forced a workforce that is overwhelmingly women to tolerate inappro- priate customer and supervisor behavior because their income is so dependent on customer tips.

Click here to read the full policy brief.

The Food Labor Research Center, based out of the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy, is the first academic institution in the country to focus on the intersection of food and labor issues.

One Fair Wage (OFW) is a nonprofit organization that is led by advocates for restaurant workers seeking to end all subminimum wages and to increase the sustainability of wages and working conditions in the service sector.