I think a lot of people in New York and other major cities are currently questioning how to order food “ethically.” Is there anything you think we can do as individual consumers to better protect delivery workers?
Well, there’s only one universal truth: tip generously. If there’s inclement weather or extra adverse risk to the worker, tip a little more if you can, because it goes a long way. We know that this is an industry with rampant wage theft, right? The U.S. Department of Labor calculates that a billion dollars are lost in wages in New York State alone every year because of wage theft, and more often than not, that’s affecting people of color who work as domestic workers, nail salon technicians, construction workers, day laborers. It goes both ways; the employer takes advantage of the worker perhaps not speaking or understanding English very well, and then the worker wrongfully assumes that they don’t have any rights in this country, or in this city or in this state, when they most certainly do.
While it’s great progress that restaurant workers in New York were recently made eligible for the vaccine, I know there’s a lot of work left to be done; how do you think ordinary people can get involved in helping to protect restaurant and delivery workers?
Well, at the federal level, we need to advocate for the Restaurants Act. We need the U.S. Senate to join Congress in helping us save our restaurants, because these are the businesses that give our neighborhoods their character. It’s never Applebee’s, it’s never Target… it’s always mom-and-pop shops. So if you love your neighborhood, ask your senator or congressperson to get out there on the Restaurants Act.
At the state level, we have a a bigger problem with the way we run things. We’re in a huge deficit, and we need to generate revenue. And we need billionaires to pay their fair share in taxes in New York, including sales tax on luxury items. We need to make sure our schools are fully funded, and we need to make sure that we have enough hospital beds, because this affects the workforce. This affects the economy, and everybody cares about the economy, even if you’re a billionaire—and you certainly care if you’re a minimum wage worker.
Last question: is there anything you’d particularly like to see the Biden administration prioritize in the first 100 days?
I would love to see every single child who has been separated from their families at the border reunited with their parents. We’ve already seen the trauma during some of the reunification moments, and as a parent, it breaks my heart. We cannot continue to engage in this violation of human rights; I want to see comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship for the people who are the backbone of the economy of this country, which was proven more than ever doing this pandemic.