Monday, March 28, 2011

Fighting for More than $2.13 an Hour

Our Fair Eats Campaign is dedicated to increasing the minimum wage for tipped workers. 20 years have passed since servers have had an increase on the $2.13 hourly wage! While this campaign is focusing its efforts locally, we also have been lending our support to the WAGES Act, which would guarantee a base minimum wage of no less than $5.50/hr or 70% of the Federal Minimum Wage for tipped workers.

Rev. Garret J. Andrew, a former server himself, writes about the difficulties of living off a wage this low and why he supports the WAGES Act in an editorial for the Albany Herald.  "Reverend Andrew's op-ed in the Albany Herald articulates our moral and civic obligation to raise the minimum wage of tipped workers," says Vanessa Faraj, 9to5 Altanta Fair Eats Organizer. "Grassroots efforts such as 9to5's Fair Eats Campaign coupled with the WAGES Act-- a historic bill to address the inequality created by freezing the tipped minimum wage for workers 20 years ago-- demonstrates that we are quickly moving toward more just work place policies for all workers!"

Read Rev. Andrew's column:

“I worked as waiter to support myself in seminary. It was one of the more difficult jobs I have had. The hours are always a bit strange. You are on your feet for long periods of time.

"There are the customers, ah yes, there are the customers. Some were demanding and some were laid back. But no matter, I worked as hard as I could to ensure I did the best job that I could. It was the customers, after all, that ensured that I could actually survive as a waiter. Without the tips I would never have been able to make it.

"The worst nights were when I left with almost nothing. We had to tip others out and they had done their work well, so they deserved all I could give them. But one night I remember I was going to leave with just $6 after working for five hours.

"Knowing that I was not going to be getting any more money for food the next day, I went into the kitchen and found some food that was going to be thrown away. I asked the manager if I could have it for dinner. Granted permission, I found myself eating other people’s leftovers and thanking God that I had even that.

"I did this all while working in California, a state that requires all tipped employees to be paid minimum wage. Here in Georgia the minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour. It’s with first-hand knowledge of the difficulties that tipped workers endure that I implore us all to support the federal Working for Adequate Gains in Employment Services (WAGES) Act, expected to be reintroduced soon in the new Congress.

"Should this proposal be signed into law, it would require that tipped workers minimum salary be increased to no less than $5.50 an hour, over several yearly increments. Fifteen percent of all waiters and waitresses live below the federal poverty level. If this proposal becomes law, it would ensure that people who are able to find employment are treated more fairly by their employers, and not as virtual slaves who have to rely on the generosity of others to ensure their own success.
"WAGES would strengthen our own economy by providing a better tax base and more disposable income for those who are in the most need. It would also combat poverty in a community where poverty is one of our fiercest enemies.

"Practical reasons aside, I support this measure because it’s the right thing to do. Perhaps you disagree and think that the economy will take a hit, or that unemployment will increase, or something else equally awful. I’m not sure about any of that, but I am sure that we are not treating people right.

"We are keeping working people from receiving a fair wage and requiring them to live off the generosity of others. We are making working people beg to survive in a land where we say anyone who works hard enough can make it. Let’s live into the vision of our words and make sure hard-working people have a chance."

The Rev. Garrett J. Andrew is pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Albany. This column was produced for Georgia Forum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, educational organization that provides media with the views of experts on major public concerns in order to stimulate informed discussion.

Click here to see the original article.

(Originally posted 2/11/2011)

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