Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier Staff Writer
During high school, I worked at a bakery in my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. It was… fine. It was a great job and I loved my boss and my coworkers. It was an amazing high school work experience, but sometimes shifts could be disagreeable, to say the least. I worked long shifts that often started early in the morning, and I spent a significant part of those shifts unclogging the perpetually clogged toilet, cleaning up after sugar-covered children whose gossiping parents could care less about what their kids were up to, and being yelled at by angry customers. All this to say, I had to go through a lot while at work, so I was incredibly appreciative when customers would put some of their change in the tip jar.
Rarely would these tips amount to much. After a seven hour day I might get six dollars in odd change. But I was lucky, because I was paid above minimum wage, and still had the luxury of living with my parents, who bought me most of the things I needed.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most Americans. According to the US Department of Labor as of 2016 more than 2.5 million people in the United States worked as waiters or waitresses. Waiters and waitresses are classified as “tipped employees” meaning that they receive over thirty dollars in tips for their services every month, as defined under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Tipped employees, however, have a different minimum wage than workers in America who aren’t tipped. Instead of being paid only $7.25 an hour, tipped employees only have to be paid at least $2.13, more than $5 less than the minimum wage for a non-tipped worker.
Okay, this makes sense. It could stand to reason that tips provide the stand-in for the rest of their salary, making up for that $5.12 difference in wages. However, PayScale, a company that maintains an algorithm that can estimate how much money you would make in any given occupation, states that waiters and waitresses only make $5.66 on average, which is still almost two dollars under minimum wage. Five dollars an hour is not a living wage, particularly when those people are paying off loans or trying to support a family.
So next time you go out to eat or get coffee, make sure to try to tip your servers. As college students, it may be difficult to afford. But if everyone pitches in an extra dollar or so, waiters and waitresses could start making the amount of money that they deserve, which is more than $5 an hour.