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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Sub-minimum wages preventing laid off tipped workers from accessing COVID-19 relief

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At a virtual townhall held last week, service workers across Michigan met with Governor Gretchen Whitmer advocating for a minimum wage for all restaurant workers and better access to unemployment relief.

“And workers are reporting that when they go apply for unemployment insurance that subminimum wage plus tips falls below the minimum threshold that the state is saying qualifies them to get state unemployment insurance and for a lot of people that also disqualifies them for federal unemployment insurance in some cases.” 

That’s Saru Jayaraman. The Executive Director of One Fair Wage. She says service industry workers are experiencing overwhelming barriers accessing COVID-19 relief funds because many earn less than minimum wage plus tips.

Gwyneth Duesbery was a hostess at a Bowdies Chophouse in East Grand Rapid until last month when she was laid off. In Michigan, on average, employers pay tipped restaurant workers less than $4 dollars per hour.

“Everybody should have been paid $15 dollars an hour before this even started so people could have had more savings to rely on.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she’s committed to ensuring all service industry workers who are affected by coronavirus closures receive relief from the state government.

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