60 Comments
Jan 3·edited Jan 3

In 2007 my freelance voice over business began to slow, by 2008 all my clients were quiescent and by July 2009 I had exhausted my savings, lost my property and after spending January thru June seeking ANY kind of employment, landed my first warehouse job paying minumum wage.

Having always worked in an office environment before striking out on my own, this order picking job was an eye-opening experience.

Was I exploited? Hell yeah. But you know what really stung? Being told that even though I was making minimum wage, I still made $50 per month too much for food stamps. But for an ex who let me stay with her, I would have been living in my car eating cat food and cardboard.

That was then. Since then I've acquired a new skill set and now make a good wage, but I will never forget those horrid & hope killing days. I have much love for/support for anyone going through the hell of the working poor.

But for the grace of God.

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How is it that the NRA (Restaurant, not Rifle) and ye olde Chamber of Commerce take such a miserly approach to those who work to nurture or serve us in some way? Apparently, our culture never favors caring for others over the profit margin. What may be worst is that the reasoning makes no practical sense. Small businesses do not suffer although that's the usual argument; the economy does not suffer when the minimum wage is raised.

Judd and team, it's time that your work and research in this issue of minimum wage become a national topic of discussion.

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Might as well be slave labor at $2.13 plus tips. No wonder people don't want those jobs.

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Excellent piece!

Eye-opening; interesting that the SafeServ course is $15 and the students PAY an organization whose goal is to exploit them.

Further, we have RED states like Arkansas that have brought back child labor. Add to this Desantistan where education is very poor, leading to undereducated workforce members. Given ALEC and those financing it and these results, obviously things DO NOT go better with Koch!

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I have written n about the tipping wage before.

During the Pandemic heyday my adult child worked 8 hour shifts where people mostly called in and picked up. Most customers didn't tip at all on their pick up orders though someone had to take the order and get it prepared for pickup in containers and share the tip with other staff. Many days she made less than $20 per DAY. And don't get me started about PPP money. A large chunk that never trickled down. A 2 month lay off due to the Pandemic resulted in all of $450 for each month in unemployment. Go to Propublica and Google your zip code on their PPP site. Do this on a very cold day. When you see what was received, handed out like candy to those who applied and see how it was forgiven with very little oversight, You will be Hot.

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The US Chamber of Capitalists is right when it says that "$15 minimum wage mandate does not reflect a data-driven approach.

The data indicates that it should be $23, accounting for inflation

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Glad you didn't ignore the insane bullshit that is the Tipped Minimum Wage. The NRA is abhorrent for their position.

There's a local small chain of restaurants that actually pays well, and discourages tipping. An old neighbor was a cook there, and he was reasonably well paid and very happy. All his co-workers were happy and tended to stay there. (back when I worked my way through college in the 80's in the kitchen, the pay was so low that employee turnover was ruinous)

Thanks for this great reporting Judd!

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Disgracefully exploitative describes U.S. society, in spite of our greatly eroded freedoms.

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Thanks for revisiting this issue. In 2021 when Congress discussed raising the minimum wage to $15, I (and I suspect many others) assumed it would be an immediate increase if passed and signed into law. Was shocked to learn the proposed $15 minimum wouldn’t even take full effect until 2025, with four small incremental bumps each year in between. And that was the Democratic proposal (which Joe Manchin STILL deemed too high an increase.) I think it’s important the public understands both the injustice of a frozen minimum wage over the past 15 years AND that any legislation raising the minimum wage would likely have these small incremental increases before even reaching $15. In any event, it’s well past time to get this done!

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Jan 3·edited Jan 3

As a restaurant owner, just once I would like to see a reporter distinguish between tipped employees working at a Denny's or McDonald's and tipped employees at fine dining or upscale casual restaurants. I wholeheartedly agree minimum wage should be $15 for the fast food places and 100% disagree with the Chamber and NRA on this issue when it comes to low lever "tipped employee" jobs.

But in restaurants that are more upscale, servers are making upwards of $50-$65/hour easily. We are in a state with a much higher tipped employee wage (Massachusetts). On average servers take home a minimum of $250/night in tips on a weeknight, $400 - $450 on weekends, and this past Christmas, $600 in tips for a 6 hour day. And that is often after they have tipped out other employees such as bussers. Would you trade that for a straight $15/hour? I can guarantee you they don't want to. WHY is this never mentioned? Why do you not include statistics on fine dining & upscale work? Instead you give the world the impression that ALL servers are making the equivalent of slave labor. Please paint the whole picture and don't lump all "restaurants" into one. It's misleading journalism at best, and makes me question all your "data" - what other categories are you lumping into one instead of truly breaking it down for readers?

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This is the most in depth article on this grossest under-covered topic that should be in everyone’s arsenal of dissemination. Thank you team Judd for this invaluable reporting.

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Ironically, tipping in Europe is no longer happening. Restaurant and service workers earn a living wage outright. I have even had workers push back a tip at a bar in the UK.

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In the mid 70s I was working for a company that was a supplier to the food service industry and was an associate member of the TRA, the state group that was part of the National Restaurant Association.

The TRA would hold an annual convention/trade show, standard for most industries. However, TRA would also sponsor a “educational seminar” that as tax deductible for attendees. I was quite surprised one year when the seminar was held on a cruise if the Mediterranean and the subject of the seminar was “How to lobby against and defeat the proposed increase in the minimum wage”.

That told me all I needed to know about the TRA/NRA.

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Let's not forget some US Chamber of Commerce's history - specifically the defense fund-raising drive conducted by the Chamber among their membership to pay for legal counsel for Ford Motor Company and General Motors to defend from the lawsuit for lost wages brought by the surviving slave laborers from the factories the companies operated in Germany during World War II. That the US Chamber membership opposes paying wages is not a new thing.

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There should be a tax surcharge on companies that pay their employees so little that they need government assistance - we shouldn’t be subsidizing their poor business practices.

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Trickle down economics makes Peons of us all.

Wiping out the middle class, exporting manufacturing, and leaving Americans with “service jobs” makes us servile to greedy, over-compensated Corporate fascists--it’s all a part of the Shock Doctrine.

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