Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Restaurant Workers Deserve Pay Equality

Posted on September 14, 2015 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

By Brian Gordon

Look around your classes. Chances are a lot of your peers work in the foodservice industry and many of them rely on tips to pay their tuition. Portland’s city council recently repealed a wage increase for the many tipped workers in town. That means when the city’s minimum wage workers get a raise from the statewide minimum of $7.50 to $10.10, on January 1, servers will not be getting half of that, $5.05 as their base wage, as previously promised. The councilors sided with the restaurant industry to keep it where it stands now, at $3.75 an hour.

Restaurant owners and advocates like having the customers pay servers wages so they can increase their profits. Which is fine for summer, when a glut of tourists flood the Old Port with fat wallets. But it also means depending on the precariousness of­ a stranger’s whim. Maybe the server didn’t sing and dance enough to a Bostonians liking, which means they could leave nothing for a tip or something extremely under the going rate of 20%. Restaurant owners are required to make up the difference to meet the minimum wage if a tipped worker doesn’t make enough over the course of the day, but that lies in a grey area.

Servers making over $200 a day in the summer months may see their nightly take drop to $60. Heather McIntosh Environmental Science Policy & Planning Junior, single mother of one and worker in two Portland restaurants who recently marched in a Labor Day rally to raise the minimum wage to $15 says it’s tough to make ends meet as a tipped worker in Portland especially in winter, when heating bills are higher and costs are generally more.

everyone deserves a fair wage and Counciler Hinck and Mayor Brennan are allowing portland’s most vulnerable workers to live in poverty so that their employers can enjoy the surplus of profits and maintain the status quo

As more restaurants open every month in Portland, more workers are living an insecure life of not knowing how much they will make day to day. For full-time students who have enough to worry about with their classes, this is just another unnecessary burden of the haves vs the have nots.

In my view Portland has a chance to become something great, an East Coast model of what could be done, that’s happening in cities like Seattle and San Francisco  and most of Europe– ban the antiquated tipping model and pay restaurant workers, front of house and back of house a base wage of $15 or higher. Lord knows the restaurants in town can afford it. Owners crying broke is a joke. There’s many dynasty owners in town that have multiple restaurants, if they can afford to open several brick and mortar shops in town, they surely can afford to pay their own workers.

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