Pandemic has forced women in the restaurant industry to re-evaluate the value of their work, study finds
Photo: Mémento Média
In a series of studies last year, economists documented the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and its financial fallout on women, especially in service occupations.
In inventorying the damage, they adopted the term “She-Cession” to describe the devastating and long-term impacts on women in the restaurant industry – financial and otherwise.
“We have seen long-term analyzes that show that women do certain jobs at a higher rate than men,” says Belinda Román, professor of economics at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, mentioning the hospitality industry. , education and nursing, in addition to the fact that women are often the primary caregivers.
“Sadly, the pandemic has bubbled it to the fore,” she says. “Because this economic change was different from what we experienced, say, during the financial crisis (2007-2009), which affected men more than women. “
A May report from advocacy group One Fair Wage and UC Berkeley’s Food Work Research Center postulates that the restaurant industry, which is one of the largest employers of women and wage workers below the national minimum wage, plays a central role in perpetuating inequalities between women, especially women of color and working mothers.
The only fair wage A report surveyed more than 4,800 food service workers from October 20, 2020 to May 1, 2021 and found that more than 75% were considering leaving their jobs because of “low wages and tips.”
The “COVID health risks” were the second most common.
Reflecting the demographics of tip service workers, the majority (74%) of survey respondents were women. However, conditions are more severe for working mothers, according to the study. Nationally, working mothers reported contracting COVID-19 at higher rates than all other workers – 26% versus 19%.
Additionally, 70% of working mothers reported experiencing or witnessing hostile behavior from guests in direct response to their application of COVID-19 safety protocols.
Indeed, since Ohio restaurants were widely allowed to reopen, workers have been forced to become de facto health attendants, trying to enforce mask and social distancing protocols in what the Centers for Disease Control have called it one of the most dangerous environments in the pandemic.
During the state’s COVID-19 lockdown, officers from the Ohio Investigation Unit issued 613 citations related to pandemic health rules to 345 different companies across the state.
And a 2020 One Fair Wage study reported that restaurant workers were to experience ‘masked harassment,’ a phenomenon in which restaurant patrons asked a waiter to remove their masks to assess how much they should be tipped – which , if they did, put them at an increased risk of contracting the virus.
Experts say these conditions have exacerbated pre-existing problems such as low hourly wages, sexual harassment, lack of health insurance and long working hours. The workers themselves say it’s not hard to see why so many people choose to leave.
“If you have access to a phone and you’re on social media, there’s no excuse not knowing how bad it can be,” said Alexandra Davalos, an office worker turned server interviewed by CityBeat sister paper the San Antonio Current. “But people who have never worked in the industry are somehow unaware of the emotional and physical burden it can take on a person. Hotel life is historically not a sustainable life for everyone, and people are fed up with the way it used to be.
A June 2021 report from the Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) found that 65% of restaurant owners said staffing was a critical issue for them and 26% said finding workers was one of their top three concerns. ” most urgent “.
“This problem continues to force restaurants to limit hours, close on certain days and limit the capacity of customers,” says ORA.
And, according to the report, many restaurant owners believed the weekly $ 300 federal unemployment supplement was to blame for the shortage.
Which is what Román thinks was a factor employers weren’t counting on as they struggled to emerge from the pandemic crisis: the realization by women workers of their own worth.
“They never had time to stop and say, ‘Wait a minute. $ 7.50 an hour? I’m worth more than that, and my family needs more than that, ”she says. “To date, most have had the chance to step back and reassess. Imagine if we equalized the wages of women and everyone was a full partner in this economy. Imagine what this could do for our community. It’s just really hard to sell this idea because people tend to think, “Your gain is my loss. And it doesn’t have to be like that.
A version of this story was originally published by CityBeat’s sister newspaper, the San Antonio Current.
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