The readers’ forum

Many tipped workers live in poverty

 

The restaurant industry is one of the fastest growing and most profitable sectors of our economy, yet no other industry gets away with passing crucial costs of doing business mostly onto the consumer. Not only do tipped workers use food stamps at double the rate of employees in any other industry, the majority of their wages don’t come from their employer; they come from tips, which aren’t even guaranteed.

Fifty years ago the United States declared a war on poverty, but today’s wages are abysmally out of step with inflation, productivity and costs of living. If tied to inflation, today’s minimum wage would be at least $10.56, and $21.72 if it kept up with increases in worker productivity. And if you live off tips, you’re three times as likely to live in poverty than any other workforce in the country.

The difference between living off tips and a stable base wage is the difference between saving enough money to plan for the future, afford a doctor’s bill or simply just stay home sick and not be fearful of missing rent that month. For long-time Miami restaurant worker, Lananchino Philizaire, it means not being able to support a family. Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a national organization fighting to improve wages for our country’s restaurant workers, is collecting stories from anyone who knows what it’s like to live off tips. Philizaire is just one of many people who is struggling to get by.

To realistically fight poverty, raising wages must include everyone. The bills introduced last week, SB 456 and HB 385, would eliminate the tip credit and require all workers to be paid a minimum of $10.10 an hour, lifting thousands of Floridians from poverty.

It’s time to raise wages for all workers — no worker should earn less than the minimum wage.

Dwight Bullard, state senator, Miami

Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of ROC United,

Oakland, Calif.

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