The pandemic has forced women in the restaurant industry to reassess how they value their work


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  • Unsplash / Spencer Davis
  • According to a new report, more than 75% of restaurant workers surveyed were considering quitting their jobs because of “low wages and tips.”

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. Local experts say the divestiture has been particularly felt in San Antonio, whose economy is heavily dependent on service sector jobs.

“We’ve seen long-term analyzes that show women do certain jobs at a higher rate than men… especially in places like San Antonio, where you have a lot of Hispanic women working in the hospitality industry, the education, nursing, but they have children. They are the caregivers above all else, ”said Belinda Román, professor of economics at St. Mary’s University.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic has caused it to bubble to the fore,” she added. “Because this economic change has been different from the change we have seen, say, during the [2007-2009] financial crisis, which has affected more men than women.

A May report by advocacy group One Fair Wage and the UC Berkeley Food Labor Research Center postulates that the restaurant industry, which is one of the largest employers of women and workers at lower wages nationally, plays a central role in perpetuating inequalities among women, especially women. of color and working mothers.

“I’ve always been able to get by, but in this industry the idea of ​​having a ‘living wage’, or putting a lot of money into savings for my kids, is a fucking pipe dream. “said Teresa, a 14 year veteran in the bar and restaurant industry. She used a pseudonym for fear of reprisal in the workplace.

“To hear that people are pushing for this right now is good, but if I quit because my boss doesn’t give me $ 15 an hour, my place will be taken by a 21 year old girl in a few days. Added Teresa, a mother of school-aged twins. “It’s just like that.”

“Low wages and tips”

The One Fair Wage 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.

Health Commissioners

Indeed, since Texas 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.

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 are on social media, there is no excuse not to know how serious this can be,” said Alexandra Davalos, an employee of downtown SA. became a county employee.

“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 once was.

However, Román said there was one factor employers did not count 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 said. “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 that way.

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Cecil N. Messick

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