This post was originally posted in February 2013. It’s still pretty relevant today.
In last night’s State of the Union speech, President Obama called for the federal minimum wage to be raised to $9 per hour. This is great for the average minimum wage worker, but not so great for servers and other tipped employees. You see, the last few times the minimum wage has been raised, the server wage remained stagnate at $2.63 / hour plus tips — which is exactly 1/2 of $5.25 / hour — the minimum wage YEARS ago! If we are going to discuss raising the minimum wage for some, we really should talk about raising it for all, especially since more and more people are choosing to dine out rather than cook at home.
Many of you know I was a server for about 15 years before making the transition out of the industry. While I thoroughly enjoy my new profession, I do miss and look out for my fellow servers. It’s a part of my life that I will never lose, and it has taught me lots about business, people, and the way the world truly works. You see, most people think that a server merely takes your order and brings you your food, and little else. In reality, it’s much more complicated. Not only do they much more than just taking orders and running food, they also have to juggle many tables myriad of requests in their heads at any given time, deal with kids running under them while carrying 20 pound trays of scalding hot food, managers, owners and corporations who have no clue how to wait tables trying to tell you better ways to do your job. Add that to multiple tables of various sizes, each with their own personalities, needs, and desires and you get a job that is more stressful and many times more dangerous than what any of you office people will EVER have to deal with.
I realize that raising the minimum wage for servers and tipped employees might make some prices go up. So be it. If you want to be waited on by someone else, the least you could do is expect to contribute to a living wage for the person who is dealing with you. If you don’t want to eat and support the staff, go to McDonalds or some other fast food joint where the staff is already making minimum wage. At least there, the employee knows he or she will be going home at the end of the week with at least enough to pay a bill or two. For servers, if they wait on asshats all night, or get stuck in a crappy section or whatever, they may have their power turned off, or may not be able to feed their kids. They cannot reasonably rely on their petty paychecks to begin with as many times, they checks are $0 because of taxes. So a few bad nights in a week can really screw someones life up for a long time.
With the request to raise the minimum wage by the President last night, I truly hope they raise the wage for servers as well. Every one of you deserve honest pay for your thankless work. I have created a White House Petition to raise the minimum wage to the same as every other minimum wage worker (in other words, drop the 1/2 of minimum wage crap). I urge each and every one of you to sign the petition and forward it to everyone you know, regardless if they work in the industry or not.