Florida, a state dependent on tourists and tourist-related activities and businesses, is considering a dramatic reduction in hourly pay rates for tipped restaurant workers. These employees, which include servers, busers and bartenders, currently make $4.65 an hour. Their wages could be slashed by more than half, bringing the hourly rate down to $2.13, which is the lowest legal amount in the United States.
Most states pay their restaurant workers significantly more than the $2.13 minimum wage in order to attract good employees. As a server at an Olive Garden in Illinois, I make $4.95 an hour– and it still doesn’t feel like very much. After the taxes from my reported tips are taken out of my paycheck, I end up making about $35 a week in hourly wages. The rest comes from tips– which are hit or miss.
Several reasons are cited for Florida’s possible pay cut, including “rising pay and health care costs” (Huffington Post). Restaurant industry officials, including a spokesperson from OSI Restaurant Partners, which owns Outback Steakhouse, says that the restaurant industry is in danger of collapse because of the resource drain.
At a time when more and more people go out to eat frequently and new restaurants open up all the time (and appear to make money), the argument that the restaurant industry is struggling seems weak.
It is also interesting that Florida officials find it more appropriate to slash the wages of lower-tier workers instead of salaried management or other higher-paid employees.
And, as we all know, tips are not a very reliable way to make a living. While the recommended percentage for tipping a server in a sit-down restaurant is 15%, I get 10-12% tips daily because many people are unaware of the proper etiquette. Restaurant-goers in Florida are unlikely to begin tipping more just because hourly wages go down– which means that the servers, busers, and bartenders working for pennies every day are the ones who will lose out.
Photo credit: zoetnet