Living For Tips — Why Waitresses Put Up With Sexual Harassment

Claudia Chi Ku is a single mother of four who works as a server, food-runner, and bartender at a popular Mexican grill in Los Angeles. Like many in the restaurant industry, Chi Ku faces sexual harassment daily, while averaging just $10 in tips per shift.

Customers often ask for her phone number and make suggestive comments while she takes their orders. She tolerates more than she might otherwise because she needs the money.

“You have to respond in a nice way so they don’t feel bad,” she says, “In the end, I depend on their tips – I depend on them being there.”

“I’d rather have a reasonable wage that I know for sure I can count on, every time I work,” she says. “Some customers leave only a dollar, some don’t leave anything.”

A Culture of Harassment

There are more than 11 million restaurant workers in the United States, and many of them have stories similar to Chi Ku’s, said Saru Jayaraman, director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California at Berkeley and co-director or the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United). 

The food service industry is notoriously hard on its workers, in part because the federal minimum wage is just $2.13 for people who earn tips, Jayaraman said. Only seven states have eliminated the two-tier system meaning they have one minimum wage for both tipped and non-tipped workers.

Those rock-bottom earnings all but guarantee a climate in which food servers put up with customer harassment just to eke out a living, she said. Unlike what many people might assume, most restaurant workers aren’t serving expensive meals in fine-dining establishments. Rather, they’re on the front lines in chains like Denny’s, the Olive Garden, and Applebees. 

Read the full story on Slate

/present voice of the month: Joanna Lu

Every month, we feature a different member of our blog team as a /present Voice to formally recognize the value of his/her voice and their commitment to the blog.

We are excited to announce Joanna Lu as our /present Voice of the Month for June 2015! Joanna has been an integral  part of the re/present blog team who demonstrates time and time again her dedication to community, social justice, and making a difference. Here’s Joanna in her own words - 

Tell us about yourself. 
Greetings! My name is Joanna Lu. I identify as a Southeast Asian womxn from Oakland, California. As a first-generation college student, I recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a major in Public Health and minor in Education.

My involvement with the Southeast Asian Student Coalition (SASC) at UC Berkeley began as a SASC Summer Institute 2008 mentee. This year, as a Co-Chair of the Southeast Asian Graduation (SEA Grad) 2015, I organized this intimate and personal commencement for graduates who identify with refugee and immigrant experiences, prior to and following the fall of the capitals of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in 1975.

I enjoy swimming laps as a destressor. If I had more time I would choose to read much more. (I Love Yous Are for White People by Lac Su is an amazing memoir!) I believe in the fight for education and health equity for all. I greatly value my close relationships with friends and family. Even though I enjoy blogging in my own private blog, re/present is slowly becoming an outlet for me to share my stories. Thank you re/present blog team and my best friend, Jenny, for pushing me to share.

Where are you from? Where are you now?
Although I was not born in Southeast Asia, the events that occurred in Southeast Asia forty years ago have affected my family and me. My parents are both refugees from Vietnam. As second wave refugees, they each left Vietnam in the early 1980s after the fall of Saigon and settled in Oakland, California. For eighteen years, I grew up in a low-income community of color in Oakland, where drugs, violence, and poverty were major issues. Although media negatively portrays Oakland, my hometown has played a large role in shaping my dreams and aspirations. I spent my K-12 education in the Oakland public school system, a school district that had many issues in itself. Particularly in high school, I recognized the educational disparities between students who were set for success and those who lacked the support to reach higher education. As an undergraduate I work part-time at the same high school as an Academic Mentor with the East Bay Asian Youth Center. My students keep me grounded in the community I grew up in because of their stories of the issues they face at home and at school. I just graduated from UC Berkeley and will be conducting research in Berkeley and Oakland with the School of Public Health over the summer. In the future I hope to work with low-income communities of color to address health and educational disparities.

Who or what do you re/present? And how?

When I first entered college I was always hesitant of telling people that I was from Oakland. I got looks of fear and questions of whether I’ve ever been shot. It took some time for me to realize how impactful my experiences growing up in Oakland has really shaped who I am today. Today, I represent the city of Oakland.

I represent my parents’ hxstories, struggles, and challenges as refugees from Southeast Asia. Their struggles to adjust and assimilate into American culture has impacted my growth as both a youth and adult. Although they lacked the opportunity to seek higher education, their sacrifices to this day have made it possible for me to go to college. I represent the youth that translate, read, and fill out applications for government services for their parents because they lack the English tongue. I represent the mothers and fathers that work multiple painful jobs to raise families without complaints. I represent the youth who lack role models in their lives, but still strive for higher education. I represent the elders who search through public garbage cans for recyclables because their age, disabilities, and language barriers prevent them from job opportunities. Although not limited to, these situations are vivid memories of my childhood growing up in Oakland, California. Often times, these individuals do not utilize their voices for reasons, such as lack of time, lack of education regarding politics, or simply do not believe they can create change.

What has been the most significant event of your life thus far?
The moment my parents picked me up from my friend’s house and told me I received a large envelope from the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program, I was sitting in a car on the way to Costco. I was anxious and really wanted to turn the car around and just hoped they didn’t mistake it for junk mail. “Congratulations,” it said. I stared at the packet and was speechless.

Although I always knew I was going to college, receiving this scholarship has opened so many opportunities for my family and me. Growing up and even today, my parents have constantly worked hard to raise a family. My mom never goes on vacations, but never financially holds back on an opportunity for me to travel. They never went to college or even knew what the process of applying for college, scholarships, and financial aid even looked like.

GMS has provided me with the opportunities to learn outside of just the classroom. I have traveled within California, visited several states, and explored the world. I graduated from the number one public university in the world without concerns of paying for tuition. I’ve had the ability to choose whether I wanted to work or not, be financially stable on my own, and pay my parents’ bills. I’ve seen my family become less dependent on government support services. I’ve gained leadership experiences and graduate school support that I couldn’t find and navigate being at such a large, public university. I look forward to pursuing a Master’s in Public Health in the near future.

What superhero power would you want? And why?
Omnilinguism, the ability to understand any form of language, would be an amazing superhero power to have. Language barriers have prevented many people in my community from accessing resources they are eligible for. Although I can speak Vietnamese, language barriers still exist when I’m unsure of how to say a word. There are so many languages across the world. I believe that communication is an important skill to have no matter where you go. With this power I could travel anywhere in the world without fear of language barriers. I could fluently communicate with anyone regardless of age or generation gaps. I could help translate for any individual across the globe.

UC Berkeley students are fighting to get a building named after Assata Shakur

Tired of feeling overlooked and disrespected by the campus community, University of California, Berkeley’s Black Student Union recently issued a list of 10 demands to administrators meant to improve the university’s racial acceptance and diversity. These included hiring more black administrators and creating an African-American resource center. But the most controversial request was that the campus building that “houses Ethnic Studies, Women’s Studies and African-American Studies” be renamed in honor of black rights activist Assata Shakur,

Naturally, some conservatives aren’t thrilled


We Are Built To Be Kind

Greed is good. War is inevitable. Cooperation is for suckers. 

Whether in political theory or popular culture, human nature is often portrayed as selfish and power hungry. UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner challenges this notion of human nature and seeks to better understand why we evolved pro-social emotions like empathy, compassion and gratitude.

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UC Berkeley unveils first-of-its-kind, 3-D-printed cement structure

The freestanding pavilion, “Bloom,” is 9 ft high and has a footprint that measures about 12 ft x 12 ft. It is composed of 840 customized blocks that were 3-D-printed using a new type of iron oxide-free Portland cement polymer formulation developed by Ronald Rael.

The debut of this groundbreaking project is a demonstration of the architectural potential of 3-D printing.

X2-VelociRoACH Smashes Speed Record for Tiny Legged Robots 

“In this work we explore increasing the maximum attainable speed of a legged robotic platform by pushing its stride frequency to an extreme value.” Need we say more? Okay, how about this: you’re about to see one of the fastest legged robots ever built.  4.9 meters per second (17.6 km/h, or 11 mph).

Don’t blink, because if you blink, you’ll miss UC Berkeley’s X2-VelociRoACH zipping past. I’m not exaggerating even a little bit, just watch:


“In other words, if it weren’t for the robot starting to explode, there’s no reason to think that increasing the stride frequency even more wouldn’t lead to corresponding increases in speed.”

UC Berkeley Biomimetics

IEEE Spectrum

RIP to Eloi Vasquez 

The UC Berkeley soccer player who was missing after attending a party in Los Angeles has been found dead after being struck by a car. Please keep his family and teammates in your prayers. 

UC Berkeley Gothic

-The chime of the Campanile wakes you up and you can not count the ringing of the bells. It plays a song and you think you must know it but you can’t remember. The ringing follows you.

-The squirrels all stop and look as you walk by. They are watching you. You walk faster.

-Again the weather report was wrong. There is no rain, no storms, there is only this blinding sunlight and gusting wind. 

-You lie on Memorial Glade and do not think about the ghosts. You do not step on the seals, do not anger those whose memorial you relax on.

-Inside the library, under the ground, you can not see the sun, can not hear the bell. What time is it? These questions have stopped having meaning. You find another book. Another appears. You can not stop studying.

-The protest sign in your hand has words you can’t read. What is it you are chanting? What are you raising? You can not remember. All you know is that you are angry.

-There is always another building you have never heard of, another place on campus you haven’t been. You know there are places you must not go, and as you walk past them you see the others huddled there.

-Up on the hill is the chancellor’s house. You do not stay long to watch it. The cameras turn to you and you run as the curtains in the windows shift and the lights shut off all at once.

-Your mascot is an animal killed by those who made this place. There are no more golden bears. None. There are no bears here except for us. There was no mauling last week on frat row. 

Adventures in the Nature of Matter

Dr. Darleane Hoffman is among the researchers who confirmed the existence of Seaborgium — aka element 106. She also made a key discovery about nuclear fission.

In the 1950s, women were often faced with stark choices: “At that time, women teachers in the U.S. at all levels were expected to resign if they married, so I proclaimed boldly that I would never teach,” she said. “I vowed to follow Marie Curie’s model, to marry if I wanted and have children if I chose.”

In the 1950s when she sought a research position in the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the radiochemistry goup, she was told, “We don’t hire women in that division.” Undeterred, Dr. Hoffman got the position and became a division leader of the isotope and nuclear chemistry division, the first woman to head a scientific division there. 

For Hoffman, nuclear chemistry is a uniquely fundamental form of research, one that probes the deepest nature of what we call matter. But she adds, “There is also an array of practical issues that require the expertise of nuclear chemists—new and safer nuclear reactor designs, better medical diagnostics and radio-pharmaceuticals, more sensitive techniques for detecting proliferation, safer nuclear waste storage and environmental remediation, to name but a few. The field is wide open—there are many great discoveries yet to be made.”