My name is Emma Ruff. I am a ROC Boston member, proud part of the LGBTQIA community and have been working within the service industry for 13 years. In recent time I have been fortunate enough to find a balance between my current industry position as a server, and my creative endeavors as a visual artist. In the Spring of 2018 I established The Paper Napkin. A local Boston publication for service industry workers who are actively pursuing creative careers. TPN provides a platform for local artists work while pushing for more conversations about their rights as industry workers here in Massachusetts. We come together, over our shared positive and negative experiences in the industry and work to remind our community that they deserve a safe and healthy work environment.  An environment, that I STRONGLY believe OFW can produce.     

Today I want to speak to you about womxn within the industry and the toxic imbalance that currently exists.  Each and every womxn experiences the imbalance of wages and oppressive power dynamics in different ways. It comes in many forms and direct actions often involving racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism, and misogyny to name a few. Whether it be oppression for how they identify, their race, sexual orientation, or for how they choose to present themselves. 

Womxnhood is experienced differently by each one of us and often our common ground is in direct oppression, unfair treatment, and sexual harassment while attempting to work and make a living wage.  Wearing lipstick or not wearing lipstick should not determine our wages. 

Having short hair, long hair, or no hair should not determine our wages. The color of a womxn’s skin should not be the factor in earning a livable wage versus a unlivable wage. Someone not liking the way you look, should never determine what you go home with in wages. Point blank. Being. A. Womxn. Should not play a factor in whether or not we can afford to thrive independently or provide for our families. 

I believe OFW can offer sustainable living and the opportunity to leave dangerous and unhealthy working conditions. Speaking from experience, I have accepted a $100 dollar bill from a man who gave it to me because “I looked good in my jeans” that day, but you know what, I had to pay rent that week. I had no option. Another time, I was laid off for bringing concerns about sexual harassment to management while the perpetrator, was promoted. I lost money and he continued to make it. In more recent time, I was immediately fired for asking for safer working conditions. 

Ultimately, we deserve options.  OFW can give womxn the choice to pursue a career and provide for themselves without the risk of falling into poverty for factors that are circumstances of their birth. OFW is taking a huge step towards eliminating these toxic working conditions. I am here today for all of my fellow service industry workers. For anyone that has felt unsafe or unfairly treated for who they are and how they identify. I believe that OFW can help eliminate a workplace where sexual harassment is rampant. If we push for more restaurants to become high road restaurants, to take on initiative for enacting change within the dynamic of their workplaces, and to educate their employees, then we will create a better work environment for all . OFW is a HUGE part of this. The standard needs to be set, and it needs to be set high.  I support an act that prevents anyone, most importantly my fellow womxn, from feeling targeted and mistreated within the industry. We have the right to earn wages in a profession we enjoy without being disrespected, objectified, and belittled. I am asking all of my fellow industry workers and advocates alike, to support this bill. 

Thank you to ROC United for all the powerful moves you are making and the vital resources you provide to local industry workers, to Senator Patricia Jehlen, Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and to all of you here today for listening. Thank you, and please know that you can connect with ROC for any restaurant related issue. They are here for you. 


TELEGRAM.COM “Tipped Workers Describe Harassment On The Job”

IBERKSHIRES.COM “Farley-Bouvier Pushes Bill to Raise Tipped Workers Minimum Wage”