Restaurants may be starting to pay workers fair wages

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Since the pandemic, the demands of restaurant and food service workers have essentially come down to one key element: the need for higher wages. The grueling and “essential” service work was fatal for many, remains dangerous, and has been performed for too long with lower pay or a minimum wage that is not really livable.. However, a new study from One Fair Wage shows that things could change for the better. The organization documented 1,621 restaurants “that raised wages to pay full minimum wage plus tips, with an average wage of around $ 13.50 – in 41 states where the vast majority of restaurants paid a minimum wage. pay less than $ 5 or less earlier. This year.”

The study is based on interviews with restaurateurs and an analysis of job postings taken from August 24 to September 16, 2021. As economists have pointed out, low wages have become a hard line for workers. “In May 2021, we found that more than half (53%) of service workers said they were considering quitting their jobs and the majority were leaving because their wages and tips were too low,” OFW wrote. . “Almost 8 in 10 of these workers (78%) say they would only stay in restaurants or return to work in restaurants if they received a decent and full salary with extra tips.” For many restaurants, raising wages has become a necessity if they are to retain their staff.

Of the restaurants surveyed, those in Mississippi had the lowest average wage of $ 8.86 an hour before tips (the state’s minimum tip wage is $ 2.13 an hour), while those in the Massachusetts had the highest wages at $ 18.37 an hour (the state’s minimum tip wage is $ 5.55). one o’clock). OFW also polled restaurant owners on why they wanted to raise wages, especially at a time when owners are struggling to keep their businesses afloat. “We have decided to eliminate the wage below the minimum wage in our restaurants and adopted a model where all employees earn above the minimum wage with tips shared among all hourly non-management employees,” said Katie Button, owner of Curate in Raleigh, North Carolina. “We instantly saw better and fairer pay for all of our workers. It literally changed lives.

Obviously, a casual survey of a small percentage of restaurants and their job postings is far from complete or conclusive. As Family meal highlights, an OFW hotel offers jobs at $ 40 an hour currently has a list for a server station it only pays $ 8 an hour. But according to other sources, things are definitely improving. The latest version of Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average hourly wage in recreation and hospitality was $ 16.60 in August 2021, up from $ 14.72 in August 2020, and that working hours have remained pretty much the same.

The push for higher wages in the restaurant industry is aimed at countering the rhetoric adopted by the National Restaurant Association, which argues that raising the minimum wage and eliminating the minimum tip would be disastrous for the restaurant industry. restoration. In February, NRA Executive Vice President of Public Affairs Sean Kennedy opposed the inclusion of the Raise the Wage in the Biden-Harris Covid Relief Bill, saying: “The industry restaurant workers and our workforce will suffer from a rapid increase in wages and the elimination of tip credit. The argument goes that increasing wages will raise menu prices, which will suffocate diners, causing a death spiral for the entire industry.

OFW notes that minor menu increases can happen with higher wages, and that more needs to be done to support the industry so that everyone can earn a living wage. But the legacy of tip wages means you’ve already underpaid your meals out, as lower prices can only exist by paying poverty wages to workers. “We rarely get to see this often [restaurant owners’] dreams depend on working-class poverty, ”Mireya Loza, visiting assistant professor at Georgetown University, specializing in food studies and work, told Eater. “And if you ask me if my ultimate dream is really about subjugation or employee poverty, then it’s not a dream worth it.”

One Fair Wage hopes this will lead to more wage legislation. “With this shift in the restaurant industry towards full and living wages plus tips, it is imperative that policymakers support both workers and employers in the restaurant industry by adopting a federal and state policy to raise the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour and late. pay less than the minimum wage for tipped workers, ”Saru Jayaraman, executive director of One Fair Wage, said in a statement. “After 150 years of tolerating poverty wages since emancipation, workers refuse to work for anything less than a living and living wage with extra tips, and responsive employers need policy makers to support their responsiveness by creating a level playing field and signaling to millions of workers that it is worth returning to work in restaurants.

Restaurants are still struggling, and those who survived the pandemic are operating with even slimmer margins as they cope with food shortages and make up for more than a year of intermittent sales, if there have been sales. This survey is far from exhaustive, but rather than drying up their businesses, OFW says the restaurants they surveyed “find they need to move to a fair wage in order to recruit talent, fully reopen and survive. “. Hopefully more restaurants can follow successfully.


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