For a lot of working people, this holiday season will be one of belt-tightening rather than shopping sprees. Let’s face it, our wages just aren’t keeping up the way they used to. Here’s a fact: Average income for the least rich 90% of us has been flat since the 1970s, although people are working more hours. Not a recipe for a holiday-buying bonanza.
OK, Reservoir Dog Mr. Pink was a bad guy, a career criminal and maybe even a killer. (We’ll never know for sure about that.) But even worse, Mr. Pink was a restaurant server’s horror story. No matter how hard a server busted his or her tail bringing his food and drink and making his meal pleasant or even memorable, Mr. Pink wouldn’t leave a tip.
The federal minimum wage for tipped workers—mostly servers in restaurants but also some workers in hotels, nail salons, carwashes and other industries—has been stuck at $2.13 an hour since 1991. Employers expect customers to make up the difference between the $2.13 and the federal minimum wage with their tips.
Darden Restaurants Inc., the company whose 28,000 workers serve at Red Lobster, Olive Garden and the upscale Capital Grille restaurants, found itself on the defensive in September, as CEO Clarence Otis tried to explain to shareholders why year after year earnings per share dropped and restaurant servers labored under a $2.13 per hour federal “tipped” minimum wage, with no paid sick leave.
It's hard to argue with fairness. Pointing out the injustices for dancers in the music video industry is exactly how choreographer and chair of the Dancers' Alliance Galen Hooks found momentum around gaining basic workplace safety and benefits. Something as simple as a water break during an eight-hour video shoot (sometimes in the desert) and access to chairs were workplace safety and health basics dancers simply did not have. But that all changed when the power of collective action spread across the dancer community, which often was hard to organize because of the nature of the business: multiple employers, different jobs every day and competition from fellow dancers who'll take any job (even if it's unpaid).
Saru Jayaraman, co-director and co-founder of ROC-United, will appear on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" tonight at 10 p.m. EDTto discuss the importance of raising the tipped minimum wage for our country's 10 million restaurant workers.