A Tipping Point

A Tipping Point: Raise the Minimum Wage

By Larkin Callaghan

Living Off Tips Graphic

This Valentine’s Day I spent a great evening with two dear friends at a restaurant we had all wanted to try. The food was delicious, the service was on point, and come the end of the night, we all felt pretty pleased with our evening. Then came the bill and the standard dividing and signing happened -

“How much are you guys leaving for tip?”

One of my friends queried, as someone usually does at this point. What usually happens is that 20 – 25% is tallied, we sign, and off we go. Because of the frantic pace of this particular holiday’s dining room, I added a few extra bucks to my total and we slipped away.

This particular Valentine’s Day, no doubt one of the influences for my (and my friends’) bumping up in tip was that the day before – to significantly less….fanfare, shall we say, from most of the media – was the National Day of Action, sponsored by Restaurant Opportunities United, meant to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by workers surviving on hourly wages and tips. This fantastic organization is doing essential work and creating a mobilizing force around the issue of raising the minimum wage.

When you look at the figures – a federally declared amount of $7.25 an hour – it is staggering to think how one might survive on wages of that size, much less in a city like ours, frequently deemed one of the most expensive places in…the…world. And for those serving us in our favorite restaurants, the situation is even direr. With those working in jobs in which a significant amount of their income is garnered from tips, the guaranteed minimum wage is a mind-boggling $2.13 an hour. That is not a typo. $2.13! This limit was set twenty years ago. As in, the ‘90s.

Interested in some other facts? 6 out of ten of the lowest paying jobs in the States are in restaurants. And since Spark members are always interested in the gender disparity – 70 percent of tipped restaurant workers are women.

An argument against raising the minimum wage to a livable standard would seem hard to come by, considering that a full-time hourly worker only rakes in $15,080 a year. Luckily we have a governor who supports raising the wages of our hourly and tipped workers, but this still needs momentum to spread. (Fortunately, it seems that the issue is gaining more national traction – Rolling Stone even delved into it in their latest issue, in a comprehensive article detailing the political warfare around this issue, a piece that I highly recommend.)

So what can we do as consumers? Those few extra dollars I left on Valentine’s Day have a nearly insignificant impact once tips are divided among the staff and it’s likely balanced out by someone under-tipping – so while it’s nice to do, and I certainly applaud it, something needs to change on a much bigger scale.

Luckily, folks in the big house (of Reps) agree! A couple weeks ago, the House of Representatives launched a discharge petitions to force a vote on the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2015. That isn’t even as high as the minimum wage would be today if it had kept up with inflation (it would be $10.74 in that case). Of the 30 million folks who would receive a raise across industries, 56 percent are women, and nearly half are workers of color.

Here are some things we can do to help –

Everyone deserves a fair wage. No one should have to rely on someone’s holiday bump in tips to survive.

 

A Punk Prayer, Facebook Gender Options, and Surfing The Wage Gap

One Billion Rising dances to end violence against women and girls, Pussy Riot Members Arrested in Sochi, Ways To Squash The Wage Gap, and Facebook Expands Gender Options but not Gendered Ad Targeting. This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

By Spark Fellow: Kendra Hyett

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pussyriotprotesters

HUMAN RIGHTS: Behind The Music – Pussy Riot’s Fight For Justice

The music must play on. Pussy Riot members recently released from prison forged forward to hold a Pussy Riot action in Sochi, only to be detained repeatedly by police without any excuse at all. While the police action continued, so did the press as the incidents became a media sensation.

READ THE STORY

In an opinion piece, Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina expounds upon the Olympics’ “deceptive face,” and arrests of multiple groups showing support for the L.G.B.T. community.

READ THE STORY

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WOMEN’S RIGHTS: Rise Up For One Billion

One Billion Rising is a global campaign started by the V Day Movement demanding an end to violence against women and girls. Why One Billion Rising? Because one in three women in the world will be abused in her lifetime. ONE. BILLION. On February 14th, thousands gathered in cities around the world to dance, share stories, and promote justice for women and girls. Check out the local San Francisco news coverage and coverage of one of the many NYC events.

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TECHNOLOGY: Cheers for Gender Options or Jeers For Wrinkle Cream Ads?

Facebook expands their gender options from only male and female to include 50+ gender descriptions. Is this the right step toward inclusion, or would it be a better step to remove gender entirely to spare us from sexist gender-target ads like weight loss and wrinkle cream?

READ THE STORY

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GLOBAL HEALTH: India’s Next Generation Takes A Stand

A new generation of girls is emerging in India: girls ready to demand safety, education, and their right to the same opportunities as men. While traditions like forced marriage continue, with innovative opportunities and platforms like Pathways, an organization educating youth on basic reproductive and sexual health, girls are finding ways to make change in their lives and communities.

READ THE STORY

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ECONOMY: Pay It Forward To Yourself

It’s one thing to be informed by Lean In about the current existence of the gender wage gap. It’s another thing to know what to do about it in your life. Find out what an employment attorney says you can do if you think you’re not being paid fairly.

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Pussy Riot: Punk Rock, Air Guitar & The Pursuit of Freedom

Pussy Riot: Punk Rock, Air Guitar & The Pursuit of Freedom

Authored by Kelly Gallo

Pussy Riot MembersWhile Russia was prepping for the Sochi Olympics, all-female punk rock collective, Pussy Riot, was using performance art to protest against President Putin. The group’s most famous action was in February 2012 inside a Moscow cathedral where band members danced and played air guitar as their boom box played what they called “A Punk Prayer”:

“Virgin Mary, Mother of God, chase Putin out… The phantom of liberty is up in heaven, Gay pride sent to Siberia in a chain gang… Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist.”

The action resulted in the arrest of three members of the group, including Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, who were sentenced to two years in prison. As part of Putin’s pre-Olympics prisoner amnesty, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were released in December, two months before their sentences were up. Since then, they’ve been on a U.S Tour including a stop at The Colbert Report.

On February 27th, join Spark for an evening of film and conversation as we explore Russia beyond the glory of the Olympic Games and take a deeper look at the controversial political policies that have been simmering in Sochi.

We’ll be screening the acclaimed documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, which tells the incredible story of these young female activists and follows their infamous arrest and court trial.

To get a better understanding of what drove Pussy Riot to such controversial performances that resulted in jail time and hard labor, Spark will be joined by guest speaker Masha Gessen, a Russian-American journalist who recently published the book Words Will Break Cement: the Passion of Pussy Riot. Gessen is a prominent author who is also a lesbian and an outspoken LGBT rights advocate in Russia. After Russia passed two anti-gay laws in June 2013, she decided it was time for her, her partner, and their children to move to New York.

Join us for an evening of insightful film and conversation – the flame may burn out in Sochi but human rights and freedom of speech are not be gamed with as the fight continues for equality for Russian’s citizens.

RSVP HERE

SparkSF Member Profile: Leo Garver

Leo Garver graduated from Pomona College with a degree in Chemistry. He has Spark Member: Leo Garverdone early-stage research for treatments of HIV, Hepatitis C and Cancer. He has recently shifted from using his talents in analytical chemistry to data analytics. He now does analytics and business intelligence consulting for a variety of bay area startups and non-profits (like Spark!). He is also an avid singer and ballroom dancer.

Leo’s Spark Story:
A former classmate introduced to me to Spark, and I was immediately intrigued with Spark’s mission and methodology. I joined the digital strategy committee and started going to Spark events. I was so impressed with both the people I met and the causes that Spark supports that I had to get more involved!

Who is your favorite grantee?
Uganda Women’s Water Initiative.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A beach vacation with a good book and good friends.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?
The ability to play any song on any musical instrument.

What is your most marked characteristic?
A Thirst for Knowledge. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads me to become a fountain of useless trivia.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
An Eagle. Gracefully flying around clear blue skies sounds like a pretty excellent second life.

What is the quality you most like in a fellow human being?
Empathy.

What is your favorite journey?
 I spent a semester living and going to school in South Africa.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Nelson Mandela and Paul Wellstone.

SparkSF Fellow Profile: Linn Hellerstrom

 Linn Hellerstrom is an undergraduate Political SparkSF Fellow profile Linn HellerstromScience student with a passion for women’s rights and representation in policy. She co-created a sexual and reproductive rights advocacy group on campus, as well as, a network for young women interesting in politics.

In addition to her studies, Linn is a Spark Fellow. When not working or studying, Linn loves leaving the city for epic hikes, eating her way through food-bloggers favorite restaurants, and writing. 

Linn’s Spark Story:

When moving to San Francisco, I searched for organizations supporting women’s rights. It didn’t take long to find Spark. I instantly felt like it was the perfect fit. Six months in, being a Spark Fellow has been simply amazing. Meeting the fantastic network of passionate members, getting insight into the work Spark is doing for thousands of women globally, and feeling the power of change that collective passion can create.

Who is your favorite grantee?
Roots of Health. Based in the Philippines, this amazing organization provides clinical services and sexual education to young people in one of the poorest provinces of the country.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Arriving at the airport on the way to start a fun trip. The feeling of happiness and excitement of not knowing what adventures lie ahead of you.

What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?
Being able to learn a new language in a week. I love languages but lack the patience to learn them.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Outgoingness. I love making new connections and going after amazing opportunities that lay before me.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
The President of the European Council. Or if that doesn’t work out– a lazy cat.

What is the quality you most like in a fellow human being?
Making other people laugh and feel comfortable.

What is your favorite journey?
Without doubt, my solo around- the- world trip a couple of years ago. Traveling independently for seven months allowed me to discover so many extraordinary places and meet amazing, inspiring people, some of whom I’m still in contact with today.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Strong women, dedicated to real change-making power.

Modern-Day Chastity Belt, Swedish Movie Ratings, and Google Shockers

Modern-Day Chastity Belt, Swedish Movie Ratings, and Google Shockers.  This is your Spark News Digest.

Read, Discuss, Share.

By Spark Fellow: Linn Hellerstrom

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Ellen Tejle

ENTERTAIMENT: Rating Feminism

Move over Rotten Tomatoes. Last week, Swedish movie theaters started a new rating system for films. Does the movie have at least two female characters? Is there at least one scene where women discuss something other than a man? If yes, congrats! You get an A. The goal of the rating system is to encourage more multi-dimensional female characters in film.

READ THE STORY 

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GLOBAL: British emergency funding helping women and girls

We’ve seen it in Syria, Haiti, and now, in The Philippines. In countries in crisis, women and girls are disproportionately impacted. Gender-based violence increases dramatically. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) has recently announced a £21.6 million in funding for protection and support of women and girls in crisis.  The project will fund simple investments that reduce the risk of violence against women.

READ THE STORY

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WOMENS RIGHTS: Let Girls Lead

Puberty is tough enough. Going to school often means dealing with sexual advances and peer pressure. Let Girls Lead started a video contest as a part of their global movement to encourage girls to lead social change. The contest allows girls to share their own stories around solutions and successes. The winners get to be the next Sofia Coppola, creating their own short films.

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BUSINESS: Modern-Day Chastity Belt

Will a pair of anti-rape underwear provide security when we are “putting ourselves in potential risky situations”? The NY based company AR Wear created lockable shorts that aim to prevent rapes from completion. Successful or not, the product sparks controversy. Is this just another way of teaching women how not to get raped versus addressing the root issue?

READ THE STORY 

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TECHNOLOGY:  The Dark Side of Google Search

Type in the word “feminism” or “feminist” into Google. Watch the auto-complete results. Shocking? Here´s PolicyMic´s version of the results, together with the faces of the women that won´t accept it.

READ THE STORY 

5 Reasons To Be Grateful

5 reasons for being grateful

Authored By Spark Member: Larkin Callaghan

With the onslaught of Christmas carols, blowout sales on every corner, and impending sense of personal debt, all the telltale signs are here – the holidays have arrived. So, how do you stay sane during times of consumer craziness? One of the best ways to counter the ‘buy buy buy’ mentality is to focus on how grateful we are for what we already have. And with Thanksgiving coming up in just over a week, this is the perfect time for us to reflect on some of those things we can be grateful for:

1) Community – I know, I know. This is pretty par for the course around the Thanksgiving-gratitude-roundtable. But a strong community is what started Spark and communities dedicated to their development and growth are what Spark supports – creating one global community of folks constantly on the lookout for one another. We can be grateful that we live in a space that allows us to facilitate the work we love and are dedicated to.

2) Freedom to move beyond boundaries – the holidays are often when we regroup with our families and friends – which usually means getting on planes, getting in cars, and climbing onto trains. Sometimes prohibitive cost prevents this – but usually infrastructure, political and social instability and unrest, or in the currently devastating case of the Philippines, natural disasters, are not preventing this – as is the case for many of the organizations that we at Spark support.

3) Innovation – Living in San Francisco, it’s easy to take advantage of the remarkable developments being made in technology – and they certainly aren’t perfect (oh, the Facebook mistakes we’ve all made…). But the incredible gains that have been made in the global development space due to innovation in the last decade especially can’t be understated – everything from being able to support a microloan to the exact person or organization that speaks to you the most, to sharing news and updates via social media, to being able to facilitate healthcare in resource-poor settings thanks to mobile tech, to creating political movements via Twitter – to being able to become a member of democratic organizations like Spark with a few clicks of a keyboard! – it’s pretty amazing what’s happened and we’re pretty grateful for it.

4) Social movements work – Spark members know this already, but last year, when a collected effort was made to encourage folks around the country to participate in Giving Tuesday (the Tuesday after Black Friday, dedicated to giving back to non-profit and charitable organizations), over 50 million people pushed the agenda of charitable giving – resulting in millions of dollars of donations to non-profit organizations. So we’re thankful you’re involved.

5) Science backs up the importance of gratitudestudies have shown that being thankful and expressing it leads to a happier and healthier you – being thankful for how gratitude improves our well-being is a little meta, but we like it!

This year, Giving Tuesday is December 3, 2013 – and it’s a great way to give back after the onslaught of Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchasing craziness! A day dedicated to recognizing and celebrating non-profit and charitable organizations, Giving Tuesday allows you to show your thanks to Spark and other groups that work to serve vulnerable populations all over the globe – those who may not have the same resources we’re so lucky to have. Make a contribution of your own, or gift one for someone else – a Spark membership makes a great holiday present!