If you think a tip for a server at your favorite restaurant is a gesture of recognition for good service, you're mistaken.
“People think a tip is extra, to show gratitude for really good service, but it’s really not,” said Daisy Chung, executive director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, an advocacy group for restaurant workers. “Consumers should really know that they’re subsidizing workers’ wages, it’s not on top of it. You’re making up the difference for the fact that someone doesn’t make minimum wage.”
The Salon article by Matt Frassica, Restaurant Horror Show: How Waitstaffs Are Mistreated, covers some of the abuses that occur in the restaurant industry. This article is part of a Salon series brought to you by the AFL-CIO. Forced tip pools, wage theft and erratic scheduling are just some of the ways employers exploit workers "behind the kitchen door."
Frassica explains why everyone should care about who's serving their food:
Nearly one in 10 U.S. workers is employed in the restaurant industry, a total of 13.1 million people, according to the National Restaurant Association.
Yet of all employment categories tracked by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, restaurant employees receive the lowest wages.
According to a ROC report, nearly 90 percent of restaurant workers don’t receive paid sick days, vacation or health insurance.
In this sense, restaurant workers are increasingly representative of the situation of American labor in the early 21st century: employed at-will, without benefits, for a wage that’s constantly shrinking in buying power.
There is momentum growing across the United States to update the federal minimum wage. Last week, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.
According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the bill would:
- Raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015, in three steps of 95 cents each.
- Adjust the minimum wage each year to keep pace with the rising cost of living starting in 2016—a key policy reform known as “indexing,” which 10 states are already using to prevent the minimum wage from falling in value each year.
- Raise the minimum wage for tipped workers—which has been frozen at a meager $2.13 per hour for more than 20 years—to 70% of the minimum wage.