Valentine’s Day, the day dedicated to expressing love and affection, is just around the corner. Popular ways to celebrate include gifts of roses and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, vintage Valentines, and romantic restaurant tables for two. While we eagerly anticipate being showered by our loved ones with tokens of appreciation (TROUBLE swag?), it’s also a perfect time to recognize the inequities that persist in the service industries that support our observance of the day.
Behind the scenes of our romantic celebrations are countless individuals who work tirelessly to ensure our experiences are memorable. From retail workers and restaurant staff to florists, delivery drivers, and hotel employees. They’re a subset of our economy’s essential workers who play a crucial role in making our Valentine’s Day celebrations special. The pandemic shined a light on these and other underappreciated people who play supporting roles in our day-to-day lives. Let’s not forget what we learned then about the conditions they endure. This Valentine’s Day, let’s channel the spirit of love towards advocating for positive change in the service industries.
In the early 21st century, service industries accounted for more than three-fifths of the global GDP and employed more than one-third of the labor force worldwide. In the U.S., close to 50 million people work in retail and restaurants. Nearly 40% of all sexual harassment charges filed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are from the restaurant industry. Women in food service frequently experience harassment from customers, coworkers, or superiors.
Maybe you can relate. A high percentage of women, nearly 60 percent, have reported that they worked in the restaurant industry at some point in their lives. About 71 percent of servers in the U.S. are women. We, our moms, sisters, and daughters, are putting up with too much.
Wage Disparities: Women often receive lower wages compared to their male counterparts in similar roles within the industry.
Limited Advancement Opportunities: There is a lack of equal opportunities for career advancement for women, with fewer women occupying leadership positions in restaurants.
Lack of Benefits: Women in the industry may lack access to essential benefits such as healthcare, maternity leave, and other workplace protections.
Occupational Segregation: Women often face confinement to specific roles such as front-of-house or serving positions, which limits their access to higher-paying and managerial roles.
Unpredictable Schedules: Many women workers face unpredictable and inconsistent work schedules, making it challenging to balance work and personal life.
Inadequate Representation: There is a lack of representation of women in decision-making roles and policies that could address gender-based issues within the industry.
“U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-12th District) reintroduced the Restaurant Workers Bill of Rights in partnership with the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United. Through a comprehensive framework, the Restaurant Workers Bill of Rights addresses the challenges that restaurant workers face every day—the majority of whom are women, people of color, and immigrants.” –tlaib.house.gov
GOOD News for a change: Twenty-two states increased their minimum wage in January, raising pay for nearly 10 million workers, resulting in almost $7 billion in wage increases. In addition, 38 cities and counties across the U.S. increased their minimum wages above and beyond their state minimums. Given that low-wage workers tend to be women, people of color, parents, full-time employees, and breadwinners, this progress represents a real-life positive move for gender and racial equity.
Taking Action: As we indulge in the festivities of Valentine’s Day, let’s also take a moment to reflect on how we can contribute to a more equitable society. Whether it’s advocating for fair labor practices, supporting local businesses committed to social responsibility, or simply treating service industry workers with kindness, our actions can make a difference. We can contribute to positive change by supporting businesses that prioritize fair wages and employee well-being. By choosing establishments that value their workers, we send a message that love extends to all aspects of our communities.
This Valentine’s Day, let’s celebrate the love we share with our significant others and our love and appreciation for those who make our celebrations possible. By acknowledging the inequities in the service industries and taking positive actions, we can contribute to a world where love knows no boundaries, and everyone is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. ♥♥♥
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SPEAK UP – SPEAK OUT. THIS REALLY MATTERS.