Detroit native Lily Tomlin donates to aid Michigan service-industry workers impacted by coronavirus


  • Kathy Hutchins /

For those who are nearing three weeks of coronavirus-inflicted quarantine, you may find yourself posing impossible existential questions, not unlike those posed in the 2004 ensemble indie flick I Heart Huckabees, starring Detroit's own Lily Tomlin.

How am I not myself? How am not myself?

While we try and crack the case on our own identity and resist the urge to, you know, spiral into dissociative behavior — if we haven't already — Tony Award-winning Cass Tech alum and Grace and Frankie star Tomlin has made a big move to help those in the service industry, many of whom are struggling financially and navigating unemployment due to the sudden and sweeping closures amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Eighty-year-old Tomlin, along with the Tara Health Foundation,
contributed $100,000 to One Fair Wage's emergency relief fund, which will aid Michigan's tipped service-industry workers and delivery drivers, most of whom make below minimum wage, and many of whom have been impacted by unemployment due to coronavirus restrictions.

One Fair Wage, a national campaign fighting against unfair wage gaps for restaurant workers who rely on tips, has had Tomlin's support for a few years and was the focus of a series of Michigan stops in 2017, when Tomlin's Grace and Frankie co-star, real-life bestie, and climate-change warrior Jane Fonda pushed for a fair-wage ballot initiative.

The campaign has raised “approximately $1.5 million,” which has come from an estimated 3,500 donations, with $175,000 going to support Michigan workers. The campaign aims to send out one-time checks to those workers for $213, as the Freep points out, a snarky reference the crippling $2.13 an hour federal wage for tipped workers. In Michigan, however, tipped restaurant workers are paid $3.67 an hour, whereas the general state-mandated minimum wage is $9.45.

This week, the National Restaurant Association and the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association released a joint study, which found that Michigan hospitality businesses lost $491 million in sales and 72,000 jobs in the first three weeks of March. These losses may account for the closure of one out of three Michigan restaurants.

For more information on One Fair Wage's emergency relief efforts or to apply for assistance, visit

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