A waitress in Georgia and why Nov. 2 matters


"We the lower class people wish for better waitress pay, better health care, day care, and more jobs ..." - message from a waitress in a small town in Georgia.

On a recent trip to Georgia, a "right to work for less" state, a friend gave us a note from this waitress. She wanted us to hear her story.

The waitress told us she works in a local low-budget restaurant. Tips are low because of hard times.

Did you know that the national minimum wage for waiters and waitresses is $2.13 per hour? The assumption is that tips will bring their actual income to the standard federal minimum of $7.50 per hour. And did you know that if a waiter or waitress does not make enough in tips in addition to the $2.13 per hour to equal the $7.50 per hour federal minimum, the employer is required to make up the difference? Then the employer deducts the taxes on the whole amount - that is, the wages AND tips.

Often the tips and wages do not add up to the $7.50 minimum wage. However, if a waitress reports the truth to the boss for too many weeks in a row she gets fired because the boss does not want to make up the difference. Many waitresses are forced to make false reports of higher tips to keep their jobs. That means that they do not even make the minimum wage. On top of that the employer deducts taxes for the higher amount reported.  So the workers pay taxes on money they haven't even made.

It's hard enough to make it on the minimum wage. To get to work you need to pay for childcare and carfare or gas. How do you pay for that on less than the minimum wage, especially when many of these jobs are not even full time?

A stronger labor movement and an equal playing field for union organizing with passage of the Employee Free Choice Act would prevent these abuses.  That is why it is so important to vote on Nov. 2 to keep the most rabid anti-union right-wing Republicans from gaining control of the House or Senate.  Vote as if your life depended on it. It does!!!

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org



Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.


  • The Employee Free Choice Act has been abandoned except in a few isolated campaign speeches to union-only audiences.

    This cannot be blamed on the Republicans, either. Of course they oppose workers' rights, yet the Democrats have done precious little in this area.

    Using a loose promise of EFCA for the purpose of maintaining Democratic control of Congress is delusional at best, and completely dishonest.

    Posted by Louie, 10/23/2010 3:58pm (5 years ago)

  • This is disgraceful. Just another example of the way the ordinary worker gets screwed by the system.

    Posted by Ronald Humphrey, 10/22/2010 9:39am (5 years ago)

  • Esther, thank you for this interesting and insightful article. While I knew that waitstaff's wages were lower than the minimum because of the assumption of tips, I didn't know about the tax issue.

    Posted by Rachel Dworkin, 10/20/2010 7:38pm (5 years ago)

  • If things are that bad it would be better to get the fellow workers together and make your own way in a communal restaurant and pay yourselves equally for work of equal value. Organic food is the way forward to get out of the bosses agribiz chemicalized and poison food anyway. Yes, the times are that bad and the workers must band together and uphold the best working and living conditions.

    Posted by Josey, 10/19/2010 1:12am (5 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments