The People Who Expect You to Pick Up the Tab

In restaurants and other industries where workers earn the tipped minimum wage ($2.13 an hour), employers expect the customer to pay their employees.

The average worker living off the tipped minimum wage is three times more likely to live in poverty and only make $8 an hour after tips, sometimes less. It’s time we raise the tipped minimum wage, which hasn’t budged since 1991.

Have you ever lived off tips? Are you currently a tipped worker? Share your living off tips story here or see other stories on Twitter using the hashtag #livingofftips.

Check out the video from Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United and learn how you can get involved.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Want to Eat at Restaurants That Treat Their Workers Well? There’s an App for That

There are 10 million restaurant workers in America, yet most of them make less than $9 an hour. According to Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, 90 percent of restaurant workers don’t have paid sick leave so two-thirds of people who cook and prepare our food could come to work sick.

To support employers in the restaurant industry that do treat their workers well, check out the ROC Diners Guide so we can vote with our dollars on the kinds of establishments we want to see more of.

The ROC Diners Guide is available as a PDF or as a mobile app on the Android and iPhone.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Can You Live on $7.25?

As we reflect on the actions all over the country by Walmart associates on Black Friday and consider the fact that people are working harder than ever and are still losing economic ground, we’re reminded that the federal minimum wage is not enough.

In a joint Op-Ed for CNN, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and National Employment Law Project Executive Director Christine Owens remind us that in the past 15 years, all wage increases have gone to the wealthiest 10%.

Trumka and Owens write:

If the minimum wage had just kept pace with inflation since 1968, it would be $10.77 an hour today instead of $7.25. For tipped workers, the rate’s been stuck at a scandalous $2.13 for 20 years.

Congress is considering a proposal, called the Fair Minimum Wage Act, from Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Rep. George Miller of California, supported by President Barack Obama. The act would raise the minimum wage over two years to $10.10 an hour and let it grow with inflation.

The Senate is expected to consider the proposal the week after Thanksgiving.

If the minimum wage had kept up with the growth of workers’ productivity, it would be $18.67. And if it had matched the wage growth of the wealthiest 1%, it would be more than $28.

Read the rest of $7.25 an Hour Is Not a Living Wage.

Click here to call your senators today, asking them to vote “Yes” on a motion to proceed on the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.

In case you missed it last week, The New York Times’ Steven Greenhouse covered the low-wage retail and service economy and the devastating effects on America’s working families.

Read: On Register’s Other Side, Little to Spend.

Watch the video above of fast-food workers in Greensboro, N.C., holding a surprise revival service at a Church’s Chicken to support the workers and the fight for a fair wage.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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‘At That Wage, We Cannot Provide for Our Children’

The latest video from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United tells the stories of workers who are “Living Off Tips.” In an industry that is dominated by women workers who get paid a minimum wage of $2.13 plus tips, many workers can’t afford to pay their basic necessities or the needs of their families. ROC United is calling on tipped workers to tell their stories so that more and more people can learn the difficulties of the hardworking women and men who rely on a tipped wage that hasn’t been increased since 1991.

Hear more stories from workers Living Off Tips or share your story.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Nationwide Fast-Food Strike Set for Aug. 29

The growing movement for a living wage and justice for fast-food and other low-wage workers will reach another milestone next week with a nationwide strike set for Aug. 29.

Following the success and public support of a walkout in eight cities earlier this month, those workers and the community, faith and labor groups that back them are calling on fast-food and low-wage retail workersacross the nation to join them in the fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.

The strike is set for the day after the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. One of the historic march’s demands was to “give all Americans a decent standard of living,” and it called for a minimum wage of $2 per hour. Adjusted for inflation, that would equal $15.26 an hour today.

Nancy Salgado, a single mother of two who has worked at McDonald’s in Chicago for 10 years and makes Illinois’ minimum wage of $8.25 an hour, says:

We are united in our belief that every job should pay workers enough to meet basic needs such as food and housing. Our families, communities and economy all depend on workers earning a living wage.

Fast food is a $200 billion a year industry and retail is a $4.7 trillion industry, yet many service workers across the country earn minimum wage or just above it and are forced to rely on public assistance programs to provide for their families and get health care for their children. The median age in the fast-food industry is older than 28 and more than one-quarter of fast-food workers are raising at least one child.

Learn more at Low Pay Is Not OK.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Lobbying Group Trying to Roll Back Albuquerque’s Minimum Wage Laws

A Las Cruces-based lobbying group has filed a petition in Albuquerque that could drastically affect the thousands of tipped employees who fought for and won a raise in their minimum wage. Effective since January 1, 2013, tipped workers have been making $3.83 an hour, up from the original $2.13. Under this deceptive new proposal, workers will be penalized when their tips raise their take-home pay higher than $9.50 an hour.  When that happens they will see their non-tip wage lowered to $2.13 an hour.

This new bill punishes employees who, by providing excellent service to their customers, earn more in tips. Under this lobbyist-driven proposal, customers could inadvertently trigger a pay cut if they tip their waitress well for good service.  This idea penalizes great service, forces customers to worry if their tips are helping or hurting, and undermines the voters who passed the original wage increase in overwhelming numbers.  It’s legalizing wage theft and it’s wrong for Albuquerque.

Israel Chavez, who works as a server in Albuquerque, responded by saying, “It’s terrible to see people actively working to subvert a minimum wage increase that Albuquerque citizens overwhelmingly support.  These tactics would effectively steal the wages of many citizens who are already below the poverty line.  The citizens of Albuquerque voted for a minimum wage increase and it’s the municipal government’s duty to enforce that.”

Last November 66 percent of Albuquerqueans voted to have the minimum wage increased. Working America will continue talking to people at their homes and in their communities about why this is a setback for tipped employees and for the Albuquerqueans who spoke with their votes on what the city needs.

Photo by Raise the Wage on Facebook

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Michigan Moms and Workers vs. Restaurant Industry and ALEC

Lawmakers in Michigan are still pushing a bill that would keep cities and towns from making their own decisions about paid sick days laws. We call them “preemption bills” – restaurant lobbyists and their allies call it the “kill shot” to paid sick days.

The bills in the House and Senate are ALEC model bills, inspired by none other than Wisconsin union-buster Gov. Scott Walker. Quick story: In early 2011, Walker pushed and passed a preemption law in Wisconsin, completely invalidating the will of Milwaukee voters who had just passed a sick days ordinance.

The restaurant lobby was so excited that they handed out copies of the bill to attendees of ALEC’s August 2011 meeting.

And, as if by magic, preemption bills have been introduced in Michigan, Mississippi, Washington, Arizona, Indiana, and Oklahoma. Such laws are already on the books in Wisconsin and Louisiana. Just this week, a preemption bill passed both houses of the Florida legislature. Textbook ALEC.

In Michigan, along with statewide mothers’ organization Mothering Justice, Working America delivered petitions signed by over 2,500 Michiganders to the Michigan Restaurant Association and the state legislature.

All workers deserve the opportunity to earn paid sick days, so that not another person has to make their choice between going to work sick and not making rent, or not being able to eat, or not being able to care for their child.

But even the threat of workers in a few cities and towns having this basic right has the restaurant lobby and ALEC running scared, using their politician pawns to introduce ridiculously undemocratic preemption bills that won’t create a single job. Since when did these “small-government” obsessives get into the business of telling cities and towns how to conduct their business?

Join us. Tell the Michigan legislature to stand with workers, mothers, and democracy – not ALEC and the restaurant lobby.

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Salon: Restaurant Horror Show

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

If you think a tip for a server at your favorite restaurant is a gesture of recognition for good service, you’re mistaken.

“People think a tip is extra, to show gratitude for really good service, but it’s really not,”  said Daisy Chung, executive director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, an advocacy group for restaurant workers. “Consumers should really know that they’re subsidizing workers’ wages, it’s not on top of it. You’re making up the difference for the fact that someone doesn’t make minimum wage.”

The Salon article by Matt Frassica, Restaurant Horror Show: How Waitstaffs Are Mistreated, covers some of the abuses that occur in the restaurant industry. This article is part of a Salon series brought to you by the AFL-CIO. Forced tip pools, wage theft and erratic scheduling are just some of the ways employers exploit workers “behind the kitchen door.”

Frassica explains why everyone should care about who’s serving their food:

Nearly one in 10 U.S. workers is employed in the restaurant industry, a total of 13.1 million people, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Yet of all employment categories tracked by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, restaurant employees receive the lowest wages.

According to a ROC report, nearly 90 percent of restaurant workers don’t receive paid sick days, vacation or health insurance.

In this sense, restaurant workers are increasingly representative of the situation of American labor in the early 21st century: employed at-will, without benefits, for a wage that’s constantly shrinking in buying power.

There is momentum growing across the United States to update the federal minimum wage. Last week, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.

According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the bill would:

  • Raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015, in three steps of 95 cents each.
  • Adjust the minimum wage each year to keep pace with the rising cost of living starting in 2016—a key policy reform known as “indexing,” which 10 states are already using to prevent the minimum wage from falling in value each year.
  • Raise the minimum wage for tipped workers—which has been frozen at a meager $2.13 per hour for more than 20 years—to 70% of the minimum wage.

Read more about working conditions in restaurants at Salon. Also be sure to check out the first article in this series, LeBron James Might Improve Your Pension.

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