Anyone who has waited tables, cleared dirty dishes, manned the pans in a diner or seated well-dressed customers in a white-tablecloth restaurant knows a thing or two about hard work. For some of us it was a stepping stone we endured to get through college. For others it is a way of life. But making a living wage from working in a restaurant has always been the exception rather than the rule and recent research reveals that it hasn’t gotten much better.
On Monday, February 14, ROC-United (Restaurant Opportunities Center) issued a report called “Behind the Kitchen Door,” stating that the nation’s 10.3 million restaurant workers are mostly unpaid for sick days, do not have basic health insurance, and earn well below the average US salary. Restaurant workers’ income averaged only $15,092 in 2009 compared to $45,155 for the total private sector, according to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In addition, racial discrimination and unequal treatment still rears its head. White workers make on average $13.25 per hour, while non-white workers bring home $9.54.
Solutions offered by the nonprofit group, which published individual reports for Los Angeles, Metro Detroit, Miami, Maine, Washington DC, New Orleans, Chicago and New York, included encouraging employers to “take the high road” by offering living wages, sick pay and health benefits and providing advancement opportunities for all.
Alas, while a few travel that high road the vast majority choose the low road, forcing millions of workers to make the best of their sub-par conditions.
Think about that the next time you skimp on the tip.