Attack on Servers’ Wages in Florida Sparks Backlash

The Florida legislature is considering SB 2106, a bill that would return tipped wages to 1985 levels.

Many of our readers have at some point worked in the restaurant industry, but let’s quickly review: there’s a federal minimum wage for most workers, but also a federal sub-minimum wage for tipped workers. That’s $2.13 an hour, and it’s been that way since 1991.

Florida’s mandated sub-minimum wage is $4.65 an hour, but the Republican-controlled Florida legislature – the same geniuses who’ve been wasting your taxpayer money on useless drug-testing and handouts to their donors, while taking an ax to your kids’ school budget – just think that’s too much for hardworking servers. They want to bring it back down to $2.13 an hour.

These guys are so out-of-touch and so beholden to their corporate sponsors that they actually think they are being “bold and brave” by taking money away from those who make the least:

State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said at a committee meeting last week — during which the bill passed — that the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association brought the idea for the bill to the Senate committee in an effort to make sure restaurants survive, noting that the bill makes the new minimum wage optional.

Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Restaurant and Lodging Association, said that “during the last week there have been many reports that misreported” about the bill. Dover said restaurants want to keep employees, but the 118 percent increase in their wage since 2004, when voters approved a constitutional amendment to tie minimum wage increases to the inflation index, is hurting the industry.

Okay, quick economic lesson for Senator Detert and her corporate sponsors. Florida made the decision to tie the sub-minimum wage to inflation because they actually wanted tipped workers to be able to survive in this economy. If the restaurant industry is “hurting,” it’s because consumers don’t have the discretionary cash to eat out as much as they used to. It’s not rocket science: busting unions, lowering wages, canceling job-creating construction projects, slashing public services, and doing your best to nullify health coverage means people have less money to spend. And that is ultimately what hurts businesses, including restaurants.

But no, say Senator Detert and her corporate sponsors at the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. The real problem is that waitresses and bartenders make too much money.

Think, folks. Do you know any waitresses, servers, bartenders, or really anyone who works in a restaurant who makes too much money – or even a decent wage, for that matter?

Thankfully, Fight for Florida is raising awareness of this ridiculousness. They are inviting Floridians to leave behind a card with information – along with a tip, of course – to let servers know what their legislature is trying to do to them.

While this is a Florida state fight, it’s emblematic of the policies being implemented by right-wing legislatures across the country. They are wasting your taxpayer money on useless crusades, making sure you and your family gets paid less money, stripping your ability to bargain with your employer, funneling as much as they can to the already uber-wealthy, and then wondering why no one can afford to eat at a restaurant.

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