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BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company: all work and no pay-- food workers fight for a living wage.

SARU JAYARAMAN: How is it that a major industry has basically convinced America, convinced Congress, that they practically shouldn't have to pay their workers at all? It's purely money and power. And their control over our legislators.

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BILL MOYERS: Welcome. If you wonder why so many Americans doing essential but menial work at low wages never seem to get a break, here’s an answer for you. That’s how it’s intended to be. Not by nature, or the market, or from any lack of character or will on the part of workers. No, the fact is: our system is organized against them. The very thing workers most want and need – a fair wage – is the very thing the controlling interests don’t want them to have. And by controlling interests, I mean the owners of capital, who were emboldened even further this week by the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision giving monied interests more opportunity to rig the political system against everyday Americans.

Case in point: you’ve heard about the wave of protests against fast food chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s where employees are forced to live on next to nothing.

Workers in regular, sit-down restaurants are also penalized. Because in the 1990’s, the National Restaurant Association – often known as “the other NRA” – passed around enough campaign contributions to shall we say persuade Congress to set the federal minimum wage for waiters, busboys, and bartenders at only $2.13 an hour. $2.13 an hour. The NRA claims that tips are additional income that make up the difference. But tips are random and often meager, and restaurant workers struggling to earn a living are twice as likely to be on public assistance.

In other words, the people who run the system expect taxpayers to subsidize profits with welfare for their poorly-paid employees.

Which could explain why this man is smiling. He's getting rich re-enforcing the system's grip, making sure those working people don't get a break. Rick Berman's his name. Officially, he’s a lawyer and lobbyist with his own public relations company, but his real job is as a professional bully who makes a ton of money beating up on vulnerable people. How bad is he? Well, a few years ago, Morley Safer described Berman, his special line of work, and the enemies he has made in a “60 Minutes” profile entitled, “Dr. Evil.”

MORLEY SAFER in 60 Minutes: It's difficult to find someone who provokes as much venom as Rick Berman.

DR. MICHAEL JACOBSON in 60 Minutes: He's a one-man goon squad for any company that's willing to hire him.

MORLEY SAFER in 60 Minutes: Dr. Michael Jacobson heads the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a healthy food advocacy group.

DR. MICHAEL JACOBSON in 60 Minutes: Berman is against every single measure, no matter how sensible. He'd have no restrictions on tobacco advertising, junk foods galore in schools, no minimum wage. He wants to leave corporate America unfettered of any regulations that protect the public's health.

BILL MOYERS: This master of smoke and mirrors figured out some years ago that to do the dirty work of corporate America you need to create front groups with high-falutin’ names like Center for Consumer Freedom and the Employment Policies Institute. These sham outfits, funded by deep pockets, provide cover for industries and trade groups that want to bust organized labor and kill off health and safety regulations that protect workers and consumers. And because of our tax laws, written by the owners of capital and their rented legislators, Rick Berman gets to hide where the cash for that black magic is coming from.

Over the years, however, some of his clients have been outed. Sources say they have included Philip Morris, Coca-Cola, Monsanto, the Marriott Corporation and Tyson Foods, as well as restaurants willing to fork over a pile to a hit man like Berman while paying their employees as little as possible.

SARU JAYARAMAN: Because restaurant workers, they serve us, and they should be able to put food on their own tables.

BILL MOYERS: Saru Jayaraman is one of Rick Berman’s primary targets. She's co-founder and co-director of ROC-United.

PROTESTORS: ROC-United!

BILL MOYERS: That’s the Restaurant Opportunities Centers, whose 13,000 members across the country are fighting for better wages and working conditions. Because they’ve been making headway, they’ve got powerful enemies. Berman and his clients have gone nuclear, running full page attack ads against raising the minimum wage, funding academic studies built on faulty premises, and creating a website called ROCExposed.com that constantly vilifies the workers' cause.

Saru Jayarman is with me now. She's also director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley and the author of this book, “Behind the Kitchen Door.” Welcome.

SARU JAYARAMAN: Thank you. It’s great to be here.

BILL MOYERS: Have you been surprised by the intensity of the attacks upon your workers?

SARU JAYARAMAN: You know, the truth is that Richard Berman's been following us around for the last decade, trying to shut us down on behalf of the National Restaurant Association. What has happened over the last year is that they've definitely heated up the pressure, trying to kill our message, whatever way they can. And his operation, his M.O., is to do it by killing the messenger rather than the message, because the truth is, it's very hard to argue with a message of “nobody should be earning $2.13 an hour.” That's as fundamental as it is.

BILL MOYERS: But he has personalized it, as you say, against you, attacking your credibility and your motives. Why are you doing this? I mean, when you graduated from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and Yale Law School, you could've had your choice of positions in lead institutions. Why did you commit to this work?

SARU JAYARAMAN: My parents are immigrants. They definitely struggled in this country. And I've seen too many families of my friends and neighbors struggle. And I just knew that I couldn't live in a world where millions of people are hungry and don't feel like they get respect on the job for jobs that are hard, that really, you know, require professional skills, like the restaurant industry.

BILL MOYERS: Well, your opponents have been taking out ads, as you know, in “Fox News,” full-page ads in “The New York Times” and “The Wall Street Journal.” Is their campaign blunting your message?

SARU JAYARAMAN: Not at all. The harder they try to call us names, the more I think it's realized that we're saying something that's getting on their nerves, something that they don't want to be heard. And that something is that they as an industry have gotten away now for decades saying that they shouldn't have to pay their own workers’ wages. In fact, we, the customer, should pay their workers' wages for them. Because when you’ve lobbied for a wage as low as $2.13 an hour, these workers actually aren't receiving wages at all.

And they're living completely off their tips. Which means literally, we as customers are paying their wages, not the employer. And the Restaurant Association ultimately does not want people to know that they've gotten away with this immense boondoggle.

BILL MOYERS: Do they have a point when they say that an increase in the minimum wage will mean a cut in service and higher costs?

SARU JAYARAMAN: Well, these are their two primary arguments: one, that it will kill jobs, two, that it will make the cost of food go up. So on that first one, killing jobs. There are actually seven states in the United States that have the same wage for tipped and non-tipped workers. They range from somewhere around $8.00 and $9.50 an hour. You can go to California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Montana, Nevada, Minnesota. All seven states have faster industry growth rates than the restaurant industry nationally. And in fact, we recently did a regression, looked at the states with the higher minimum wages for tipped workers, we found that they have higher sales per capita in the restaurant industry.

So we would argue that evidence shows that you could actually do better as an industry, faster industry growth, more jobs, if you treat your workers better. On that second argument that the cost of food will go up. We used USDA methodology. And we applied the current bill that's moving through Congress to every worker along the food chain, from farm workers, to meat and poultry processing workers, to restaurant workers. And we assume that every employer along the food chain would pass on 100 percent of the cost of the wage increase to their purchaser. The title of the report is “A Dime a Day,” because it would cost the average American household at most $0.10 more for all food bought outside the home. That's groceries and restaurants alike. So we're talking pennies more on your hamburger when you eat out, for 30 million workers to come out of poverty.

BILL MOYERS: But what do you say to the small-business owner, who says “Gee I run a very small place, we-- our waiters depend upon the tips at the counter. We just can't afford it. We'd go out of business if you require us to raise their wages."

SARU JAYARAMAN: I would say a couple of things. First of all, you as a small business, you are actually being cheated by these very large corporations that are running the show, setting the standards, raking in millions of profits and screwing you by getting away with very-- you know-- very, very large, high-volume business and setting standards that require you to have to pay for very high rates of turnover. Our industry has the highest rates of employee turnover of any industry in the United States. I would say-- I can point you to plenty of small businesses around the country that actually pay their workers a livable wage and have managed to cut their turnover in half, in some cases, completely out, because they treat their workers well.

I would also say that nobody's expecting you to change your wages overnight. We're talking about policies that would phase in a minimum wage increase. A minimum wage increase for both your servers and the back of the house. But the last and most important thing I would say is this: no customer in America believes when they leave a tip that they are leaving a wage for a worker. Nobody believes that they're paying a wage. People think they're paying a tip on top of a wage. We don't think about this in any other context except restaurants. We believe somehow that because they're getting tips, they shouldn't get a wage. It's not true in any other context. And that is because of the power of this industry.

BILL MOYERS: Knowing that I was going to talk to you, I did ask a few friends and neighbors in New York City. I said, "Do you assume when you leave that tip that the workers are going to get it?” And they said, "Why yes, we do."

SARU JAYARAMAN: Most people do. Most people believe that when they leave a tip, it goes entirely to that worker that they're tipping. There are so many things that happen. First of all, that worker has to share the tip with probably 20 or 30 other people in the restaurant. Often management illegally takes a portion of the tips.

BILL MOYERS: Illegally?

SARU JAYARAMAN: Illegally. The tips are meant to make up the difference between that lower minimum wage of $2.13 and the overall minimum wage of $7.25. But the U.S. Department of Labor reports an 80 percent violation rate with regard to employers actually making sure that tips make up that difference. And what results? Seventy percent of tipped workers in America are women.

And they work at the IHOP and the Applebee's and the Olive Garden. Their median wage, including tips, is under $9 an hour. They suffer from three times the poverty rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce, and they use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce. So we're talking about poverty-wage workers, including their tips.

BILL MOYERS: To a great extent, this is a woman's issue, isn't it?

SARU JAYARAMAN: Oh, absolutely. Millions of women, most women in America start their work life as a young woman in high school or college or graduate school working in restaurants. Many go on to something else, millions stay in this industry. But whether they stay or they go on, because these women are forced to live off their tips because their wages are so low, they go to taxes, and they're not getting their income from their employer, but rather from the consumer. They're forced to put up with whatever the customer might do to them, however they may touch them or treat them or talk to them.

And as a result, we have the highest rates of sexual harassment of any industry in the United States. Seven percent of American women work in restaurants. But 37 percent of all sexual harassment claims to the E.E.O.C. come from the restaurant industry. So we are exposing young women to the world of work in this industry in which they can rely completely for their income off tips, in which they can be touched and treated any which way. It's a demeaning situation to be in when you earn $2.13 an hour as a woman and you are completely reliant off customers' largess, off the mercy of the clientele for your income, 100 percent. You're living off tips.

BILL MOYERS: I said in the introduction that this is essential work, and it is. It's not going to be outsourced to China--

SARU JAYARAMAN: That's right.

BILL MOYERS: --or to Mexico or to India. Right?

SARU JAYARAMAN: That's right. These are jobs that are growing. These are the jobs that are available now. These are the jobs that people being laid off from any other sector or anybody entering the workforce, a young person, an immigrant, people coming out of prison, these are the jobs that are available. They could be great jobs, they should be, these are professions. Many of the people we're talking about want to be treated as professionals, want to move up, want to learn, want to move up in the industry to livable-wage jobs. And these are mostly adults. Many with college educations.

BILL MOYERS: So how are you recommending we change it? I hear that you're adopting a new strategy.

SARU JAYARAMAN: Absolutely. We need to eliminate the system of a lower wage for tipped workers all together. So there is a bill moving through Congress that would raise the overall minimum wage to $10.10 and get tipped workers to 70 percent of that, or $7. That's a good start, because it allows these workers some base wage, $7—

BILL MOYERS: Is it sufficient?

SARU JAYARAMAN: It's not sufficient. $7, as we all know, is a poverty wage. And as long as the tipped worker's wage is $7, that's the true minimum wage in our country. So if there's an effort or a concern to raise the wage above $7, we've got to get tipped workers there too. So there is momentum now in states across the country. Ballot measures, and legislation, to actually get all workers to the same base wage.

BILL MOYERS: You have two ballot initiatives going, one in the District of Columbia and--

SARU JAYARAMAN: And one in Michigan.

BILL MOYERS: And what are they about?

SARU JAYARAMAN: So in Michigan, we're demanding that the wage go up to at least $10.10 and that the wage for tipped workers also be $10.10. And the language we're using is that no employer should be able to pay less than the minimum wage.

BILL MOYERS: Even the diner?

SARU JAYARAMAN: Even the diner. Because the toy store next door, or the retail shop next door, they also have to pay $10.10. There's no reason that the diners shouldn't. In Washington D.C., we're saying $12.50 for everybody, tipped, and non-tipped.

There's legislation moving in Florida and Pennsylvania also to eliminate the lower minimum wage for tipped workers. So the nation is moving towards eliminating the lower wage for tipped workers. Not eliminating tips. And I want to be clear about that.

BILL MOYERS: What is a fair wage in this field?

SARU JAYARAMAN: I strongly believe that you would need $18 to $25 an hour to survive in the United States, in a city like New York or almost anywhere in this country to pay for childcare, to pay for transportation, but at the very least, to have a stable-base wage that you can count on, that doesn't fluctuate the way tips do, that doesn't go up and down. I mean, your rent doesn't go up and down, your bills don't go up and down, your childcare expenses don't go up and down. But for these workers, their income fluctuates from hour to hour, week to week, month to month.

So whether they're working as a diner server or as a fine-dining server-- you know, there are certainly ways to move up and certainly you can get a better income in a fine-dining restaurant where you can make a livable wage. They're few and far between. For all of these workers, what they really need is a stable base wage that they can count on.

BILL MOYERS: What happens if we don't raise the minimum wage for these workers?

SARU JAYARAMAN: Their lives are going to be unending poverty, unstable family incomes, constant reliance on public assistance. Our lives as customers-- what does it mean for us as customers? It means being served by workers who are too poor or often too sick to take care of themselves and thus take care of us well. It means exposing ourselves to health risks. Because when you live off of tips and you don't have paid sick days, as most of these workers do not, if your income comes from tips, you're going to go to work to get those tips regardless of what condition they're in, right? You're going to go to work with H1N1-- swine flu.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah.

SARU JAYARAMAN: You're going to go to work-- we had a member in Florida testify that she worked with typhoid fever for three weeks. There's a company, I'm sure you've heard of, called Darden, which is the world's largest full-service restaurant company, they own Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Capital Grille Steakhouse. In 2011, they announced the partnership with Michelle Obama saying that they were going to provide healthy food for kids at the Olive Garden. Well, at that same moment, a server was forced to work with hepatitis A in Fayetteville, North Carolina Olive Garden. And with a wage as low as $2.13 an hour, she had to go to work to get those tips.

Well, 3,000 people were exposed to hepatitis A as a result of that incident, had to get tested by the local county health department, filed a consumer class action against the restaurant, and won. So we ask, how healthy can your food really be for your kids at the Olive Garden if they're going to be exposed to hepatitis A?

BILL MOYERS: Do these tipped workers get benefits as a matter of practice?

SARU JAYARAMAN: Ninety percent of restaurant workers in America do not have access to healthcare or paid sick days. Which means, according to our research, two-thirds of restaurant workers report cooking, preparing, and serving our food when they're sick. The Center for Disease Control has said that 50 to 80 percent of all norovirus outbreaks in the United States can be traced back to sick restaurant workers.

BILL MOYERS: So what hope is there for these people--

SARU JAYARAMAN: Oh.

BILL MOYERS: --who have-- nott any money to contribute to political campaigns?

SARU JAYARAMAN: There's so much hope, Bill, there's so much hope. So I want to give you one example. A couple of years ago, this happened in Washington D.C. The people fought for a local paid-sick-days ordinance. Meaning that every worker in the District of Columbia would be guaranteed that if they were sick, they could take a day off. Now, the Restaurant Association has been fighting this. In fact, they’ve introduced legislation, together with ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, declaring that citizens in those states should not have the right to pass paid sick days ordinances, even if they vote for them. So they tried this. But in the District of Columbia, we did pass a local paid sick days ordinance.

At the last minute, behind-closed-door deal, they said, "Tipped workers should be left out." Restaurant workers got together with allies, consumers, said, "Enough is enough.” We fought and we won. We overcame the power of the National Restaurant Association. We got paid sick days for tipped workers in the District of Columbia.

BILL MOYERS: What have you learned about how our system works?

SARU JAYARAMAN: I've learned again and again and again that definitely there are moneyed forces that have controlled our system. But also that there's nothing that the people cannot achieve once they expose those forces and once they resist. That we can actually overcome even the most hardened, moneyed lobbyists in Washington D.C. or in states around the country. Because ultimately, if we are a true democracy, we cannot cede, we cannot cede our democratic powers to those people. We cannot throw up our hands and say, "Well, money controls Washington, money controls politics, I'm going to sit back." We cannot cede that because then there's no point in living in a democracy, truly. We--

BILL MOYERS: Is there a point to living in a democracy?

SARU JAYARAMAN: Absolutely, absolutely. We still have some power to say, "We will not put up with this." We still have some power to say, "This is outrageous. It is outrageous that working people should have to put up with this kind of misery. It is outrageous that working people should have to pay each other's wages rather than these multi-million-dollar restaurant chains paying their own workers' wages."

BILL MOYERS: So there is a moral imperative?

SARU JAYARAMAN: Absolutely, yes. Think about it this way. This is the only industry on Earth, really in any nation on Earth, that has gotten away with saying, "We practically shouldn't pay our workers at all. Customers should pay our workers' wages. We shouldn't have to pay our workers' wages." In any other context, what is it called when an employer practically doesn't pay their workers, full-time workers? It's called slavery.

And so how is it that a major industry has basically convinced America, convinced Congress, that they practically shouldn't have to pay their workers at all? It's purely money and power. And their control over our legislators. So obviously, Congress hasn't been listening to the populace, Republican or Democratic alike. And that's what we need to regain control over.

BILL MOYERS: How can my viewers find out more about what you're doing and your organization?

SARU JAYARAMAN: They should go to LivingOffTips.com, where we have all kinds of information. And especially, we would encourage people in the state of Michigan and Washington D.C., Florida, and Pennsylvania, get involved. Help support these ballot initiatives and this legislation. In other states, let's move it there too. Let's move this everywhere.

BILL MOYERS: And I want to invite my viewers to write us at BillMoyers.com and tell us their experiences as waiters and waitresses. Saru, thank you very much.

SARU JAYARAMAN: Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: Fortunately for any of us who believe this country should be about fair play and justice, Saru Jayaraman and those waiters, busboys, and cooks reinforce our faith that organized people can counter organized money. But they are going to need all the hope and heart they can muster.

And so are we, because the fight to save our democracy from the clutches of plutocrats just got harder. Here in New York State, for example, Governor Andrew Cuomo, of the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party, and legislators from both parties killed a commission investigating political corruption. They also killed a promising plan for a more level playing field in state elections. And they did so while handing wealthy individuals in wealthy communities-- those are the biggest contributors to elections-- some very big tax breaks.

And in Washington, as you’ve heard by now, in the McCutcheon case, the Supreme Court five, the pro-corporate bloc, struck down limits on how much money can be given to candidates, parties and political action committees. One prominent right-winger says the justices merely “reinstated the First Amendment for all Americans.” Sure. By doubling down on their earlier ruling in the infamous Citizens United case equating money with speech, the justices have actually decreed that you’re entitled to all the free speech you can buy. You’ll be on equal footing with the Koch brothers if you have their money.

The prevailing myth in America has been that the rich have a right to buy more homes, more cars, more gizmos, vacations and leisure, but they don’t have the right to buy more democracy. The Supreme Court just laid that myth to rest, and the new Gilded Age roars in triumph. But we, the people, shouldn’t cower or give in to despair. Those restaurant workers— they’re not quitting. And they’ve summoned a spirit from deep within our past, when those early insurgents stood against imperial authority, convinced that when injustice becomes law, defiance becomes duty.

At our website, BillMoyers.com, we’ll show you some ways you can get involved. And there's more about the fight for a living wage. That’s all at BillMoyers.com. I’ll see you there and I’ll see you here, next time.

Full Show: All Work and No Pay

April 4, 2014

You’ve heard about the wave of recent protests calling on fast food chains like McDonald’s and Burger King to raise wages for their employees, who are forced to live on next to nothing. But did you know that many workers in sit-down restaurants may be faring even worse?

That’s because back in 1991, the National Restaurant Association passed around enough campaign contributions to persuade Congress to set the federal minimum wage for waiters, busboys and bartenders at only $2.13 an hour. And it has never gone up.

They claim that tips are additional income that make up the difference. But tips are random and often meager. So much so that restaurant workers are twice as likely as other Americans to be on public assistance.

This week, Bill speaks with Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, about the group’s fight for better wages and working conditions for America’s 10 million restaurant workers.

“In any other context, what is it called when an employer practically doesn’t pay their workers, full-time workers? It’s called slavery,” Saru Jayaraman tells Moyers. “… And so how is it that a major industry has basically convinced America, convinced Congress, that they practically shouldn’t have to pay their workers at all? It’s purely money and power. And their control over our legislators.”

Because ROC has been making headway, they’ve got powerful enemies, including Rick Berman, dubbed “Dr. Evil” by 60 Minutes, a DC-based lawyer and public relations man who specializes in industry-funded attack campaigns against health and safety regulations, the minimum wage and organized labor.

Producer: Gina Kim. Segment Producer: Lena Shemel. Editor: Sikay Tang. Photo:Rachel Carter on Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0

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  • Anonymous

    Waiter are tipped for past current and future service whats the difference between a waiter and a politician Waiters wage is called a tip a politicians is called campaign funding

  • Margo Macartney

    One issue not mentioned by Jayaraman or Bill Moyers was the fact that our government gives our tax money to the Olive Gardens and Big restaurants (as well as smaller ones) by providing food stamps to the underpaid workers. And of course corporations pay little or not tax.

  • Arizona Eagletarian

    Berman is the personification of neoliberalism.

    http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=376

  • Arizona Eagletarian

    Look up neoliberalism. Berman is the personification.

  • Anonymous

    All tipped employees should be aware of the regulations governing the Tipped Wage Credit. These can be found at

    http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs15.pdf

  • Melwoolf

    The U.S. is meant to be a civilized country but you might as well call a spade a spade: it is a Third World country through and through. Look at many Latin American countries and Asian ones – there is a rich overclass (oligarchy) that makes sure the vast masses never are able to think because they are always chasing their tail at two, three or four jobs to make ends meet.

    I am so sickened by what has happened to the States – I live in Europe where there is true respect in law and action for all people to be paid a respectable wage. But then again, the American rich do not give a s–t about other people; they are truly unChristian people even if they talk themselves into thinking the “prosperity gospel”. I digress but I’m sure all will know what I mean.

    I suggest everyone boycott or make sure these organizations (restaurants etc) know how we feel when we buy their food.

  • Teal Postula

    While in college (fortunate to be there),our daughters worked in food service, it is their strong belief that a year in food service should be a prerequisite for every college degree in this nation. Invaluable lessons were learned about the industry, low wage work conditions, and the consuming public. This includes the generous, who know of the hard work and low pay, and the sanctimonious ,who demand total service, and leave little or no tips, or even worse preachy Bible tracts.

  • Vera Gottlieb

    I am fairly well traveled, I have lived in the Americas and Europe – yet I have never experienced such an anti-social country as the US. For the life of me, I can’t understand why so many people aim to move and live in the US. If you are rich, great…if you aren’t I pity them.

  • Marlene Lang

    I’m a veteran server and now a PhD candidate writing a dissertation on servers and human dignity. What’s wrong is that servers are becoming increasingly dehumanized by the corporate chain restaurant model. The memorized greeting and subsequent scripted interaction makes the server into part to the machinery. The server appears with a human face and body and voice, but he or she is not allowed to be her human self.
    And, yes, the wage problem… tips are increasingly shared among front-of-house staff so that new categories of restaurant employees can be paid less than minimum wage. This has driven down wages overall. In my last serving position, food runners and bussers often told me that even after the tip splitting, getting their small portion of each server’s tips, they had not made minimum wage. This is wrong.

  • Anonymous

    Author and commentator Tom Hartman makes a good point that we have continuously gone through these eighty year cycles in this country where the excesses of the wealthy lead to an ultimate collapse and the public demands a full accounting by the political class who are always responsible. Despite what the current political class tells you, the reason for these catastrophic events is always the lack of sufficient regulation. U.S. Capitalism has managed to create a string of these collapses in eighty year intervals and the population in this current era has seen 11 recessions and now two depressions over the past eighty years. Our current depression was primarily initiated by the 1999 removal of a long standing law that was principally responsible for ending the Depression of the 1930-40s, the Glass Steagall Act ! As Tom Hartman says, we can look back to the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries and find almost identical meddling by the wealthiest individuals in those eras that led to similar economic downturns for the general population of those eras.

  • Anonymous

    You have painted with a very broad brush, both the restaurant business and the US. Everyone deserves a fair wage but what is always left out is that the business owners have a constant balancing act, to provide service and jobs at a competitive rate, when margins are extremely small. It is now unfashionable or naive to be grateful for a job, especially when the government as in Europe can crack down and force business’ to be “civilized”. Personally, I do believe that people should at least be paid the minimum plus tips, but if that is not what is happening, I don’t believe it is because the industry as a whole is “evil”. I have lived in several countries, mostly in Europe and I will take this so called uncivilized, un-Christian nation anytime, over anywhere else.

  • Anonymous

    If you can not or will not pay every employee a living wage you should not be in business. I should not have to pay your employees wages for you by tipping. tipping should be reserved for service above and beyond normal service only . It should not be automatic just so someone can make their rent because their employer refuses to pay them a living wage.

  • Anonymous

    If a business owner cannot pay fair wages to his/her employees, and still make a reasonable profit, then… they are unsuccessful at business.

  • Anonymous

    Then I suggest the employee, instead of complaining, decide that THEY will make the world a better place and put in to their plans, to become an employer themselves and do it the “right way”. Let’s see how they do.

  • GOD’S TRUE WORDr

    I call it the TACO BELL syndrome, TB workrer gets a raise, price of a taco goes up.
    Auto worker want a taco, he gets a raise, price of a car goes up.

    Taco bell worker wants a car, needs anoter raise, and on, on on, on.

    We need price and wage freezes,

  • Wayne F.

    I hope that everyone was paying attention to what Saru Jayaraman was saying regarding the issue of tips. It is a fact that some employers cheat their workers out of part of their tips. The way they do it is through credit card purchases. Why do you suppose that on nearly every check in restaurants today there is an entry for tips? So the employer can have control over dispersing tips. There is no safeguard against cheating employees out of money that is rightfully theirs. No doubt, the battle for fair wages for food workers will be a long and bitter one, when considering the opposition they are up against, the tip issue is one where we all can make an immediate difference. I urge, indeed I challenge everyone who pays for meals with plastic to not tip with it. Rather, give CASH directly to the server. If the industry continues to resist paying workers a living wage, we can at least make sure they are able to keep every penny of the gratuities they are entitled to. It’s the right thing to do.

  • Melwoolf

    You seem a reasonable person and yet you think no job security combined with poverty wages is the healthy American way. Sadly, no one in the U.S. cares if other people have to work for nothing or work at two, three jobs to survive. I prefer the socialist way: when it comes to eating food served by frustrated and tired and maybe angry servers, I think I would rather have decently paid people whom we show some respect. We Americans seem to have barely any empathy for those “others”. We really have become machines. Europeans are civilized and believe that all people deserve respect and decent pay even so-called menial labour. Gee, those rich bankers who are so clever and get all the respect yet they screwed all of us so well. But, hey, they are only doing “God’s work” as Goldman Sachs Blankfein said so the world is right. And you begrudge restaurant workers decent wages!

  • GOD’S TRUE WORDr

    I just not blocked from this site,

  • Anonymous

    I meant the reverse – It’s probably more suitable for the unsuccessful business owner to close shop and work for someone else… as an employee.

  • JonThomas

    If raising wages causes a restaurant to have trouble making ends meet, then they must do as any other business… they must raise prices.

    Corporations have fostered an environment under which farming and utility costs (2 of the basic fixed costs for supermarkets and restaurants) are HEAVILY subsidized by taxpayers.

    The farming and utilities industries receive massive direct government handouts and many, many forms of tax breaks which go directly toward increasing investor savings and profits.

    Small business owners, which most people envision when they think of restaurants, are pawns in this tax-payer-subsidized market manipulation.

    Small business restaurant owners may indirectly, yet slightly benefit from lower fixed costs, but in the long run they too are hurt from this manipulated situation.

    When false economies are organized and nurtured into existence through intense lobbying efforts by a relatively small, and already-powerful self-interested group, then the majority of citizens are obligated into conditions contrary their own interests.

    Wages are maintained at increasing lower rates, while cost of living continues to rise.

    The results are an huge majority of the population has their spending power strangled. As was described, even their tax dollars, meant as an investment in their personal, and national interests are siphoned into the personal bank accounts of these small influential groups, further empowering the most powerful… and to quote Mr. Moyers – at the expense of the ‘most vulnerable’.

    If those at the bottom of the pay scale were to receive fair compensation for their efforts, and not see their taxes redirected into corporate and investor coffers, the entire economy would benefit from empowered consumers operating at huge economies of scale.

    Investor share may drop back down to a truer reflection of a balanced economy, but the nation as a whole will benefit… not to mention creating a more secure life for the vast majority of citizens and workers

    Prices need to rise to a level where low wage earners are priced out of the restaurant (and many other) markets.

    Realizing a truer reflection of their economic situation, only then will workers gain the incentive to stand up for their rights and demand more fair returns for their efforts!

    At the heart of this problem is not an issue of inflation, it’s the false economies… where the efforts of the vast majority are transferred into wealth for these small, self-interested, influential groups of economic leeches.

  • Lucy Frost

    I have mixed feelings about this issue. I worked as a tipped employee quite a bit at times in my life, precisely because it was an opportunity to make far more than minimum wage or standard wages paid to retail store employees. On a decent shift in most casual dining restaurants, servers will take home $10 to $20 an hour, and all of it other than the difference between $2.13 an hour and minimum wage is often undeclared and untaxed. It does vary with the number of customers in the restaurant, the quality of service and food, etc. I thought of myself as something like a salesperson — I was selling the food, my service, and the restaurant. I’m also thinking about salespeople who are paid commission only. How is that different?

  • Michael

    U say that, but let me ask u do u feel like paying twice what ur paying now for ur meal? That’s what it would be with the raise of wages and taxes and all. So now u can go out and have a decent meal for $50, but when u do it this way the cost of the meal goes to $100 or would u much rather pay a $10 tip?

  • Anonymous

    This only strengthens my point. If the “boss” quits, then there would now be more people in the pool, looking for less and less available jobs….but never fear, they will expect the government to fix it for them artificially. I think people will just become mind numbed robots, lacking passion, drive, devoid of the struggles that build character. Steve Jobs or Bill Gates with lobotomies don’t create very many jobs.

  • Guest

    why is it impossible to comment here?

    How can a “moderator” instantaneously remove a comment ?

  • Anonymous

    The short-term fix of getting wages raised for restaurant workers is admirable, but it is only a short-term fix. The long-term solution is to encourage younger generations to pursue education and training that will place them in really good jobs. The goal should be a comfortable, secure life. I am not aware of restaurant workers who ever achieve this – sometimes not even the owners.

    No, not everyone has to earn a college degree, but the trades are crying out for skilled workers. Technology and accounting are major job fields. Media sparkles our eyes with never-ending stories of the rich and famous, but most of us should gear down from these fairy tales. Why aren’t we teaching younger people to think in terms of how to invest in a rewarding life of productivity in work and personal life, independence from government programs and plans for a comfortable retirement?

  • Anonymous

    People are in business to make money so they can stay in business. The hundreds of thousands of small business owners put at lot at risk to operate a business and provide jobs. Yes, it is wrong for giants like WalMart and other huge corporations to short-change workers, but the restaurant business is a tough one to have success in. Look around your own community and watch the eateries that open and close within year or two. Maybe people should plan not to work in jobs that are destined to be lower wage ones. Even if those wages are raised, the jobs usually don’t promise a bright and shining future. Go where the good pay is.

  • Anonymous

    Great goodness. Diners are dehumanized by most of those food chains. I simply don’t eat fast food. It’s poor quality. Even the middle-of-the road franchises often load their foods with salt, sugars and other unhealthy additives. Why would anyone think the restaurant business – unless you are talking the four-stars – would ever yield a “good” living? I agree – workers deserve better wages, but what they deserve more are opportunities that get them out of low-paying jobs. These are jobs teens once had. Many were never intended for adults to support families. Sadly, this has happened with the Great Depression and with fewer people pursuing higher paying opportunities. For the record, the only reason I do not tip 20% for any service is unless it is really below par.

  • Anonymous

    Fair wages is a topic I am deeply interested in, having worked in various aspects of education, as well as in business. What do you believe explains this kind of difference in behaviors?

  • Anonymous

    Is it the American people, or is it our leadership? Look at the three most recent presidents – Clinton, Bush and Obama. None have been stunning examples of leaders who appear to care about the people they were/are elected to lead.

  • Marlene Lang

    Opportunities to get out of low-paying jobs can be hard to take advantage of, when you are struggling in one of those jobs. It’s like digging out from under a pile of rubble. Also, there is a growing glut of college, grad school and law school degree holders who cannot find better paying jobs. The jobs they prepared for at great cost do not exist in numbers great enough to absorb them. It’s very sad. I’m glad you tip well. Many servers need every dollar to feed kids, buy them shoes, pay utility bills.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, all the poverty and near poverty in our country is overwhelming. I honestly don’t believe that many of these workers just “get out of poverty” with a wage raise. As I am sure you know, poverty is complicated, often cyclic within families and tied to lack of education and people having children when they can’t afford them. This is irresponsible, but again, it is a result of ignorance. I see no leadership coming forth in our country to improve this situation – certainly not from the D.C. crowd.

  • LIberal Whackjob

    Oh stop with the conservative propaganda. And get your affirmatives/negatives straight, will you please? Your ridiculous positions seems to indicate that wages should never be raised because increased consumer prices will always result. That’s because the corporatists want to keep their profits obscenely high, not because working folks want to be able to afford a decent life. People weren’t spending because of the “Un-affordable healthcare act?” Really? You polled everyone who didn’t spend to get the facts? Or were they handed to you on a talking points paper before you started your shift spreading right wing lies trying to cast aspersions on liberal points of view on an honest and respected progressive site? Never mind answering. It’s obvious. And by the way, I raised 4 children as a single father, but I found I was always scrambling hard and never had time to waste in frivolities like trying to spread plutocratic lies on progressive internet sites. Oh, but I forgot, this is your job.

  • Vera Gottlieb

    The easiest answer would be: these are the times. Even Henry Ford understood that by paying his workers a fair wage they could afford to buy the product they were producing. I guess in those days society wasn’t as selfish and corrupt as it is today. It is the purchasing power of a well-to-do middle class that sets the standard of living. The rich, for the most part, are nothing more than parasites of society. They alone could never keep commerce alive. But greed affects the brain.

  • LIberal Whackjob

    Sure, get the workers to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps and get a good job. If they only wanted to, right? These restaraunt jobs weren’t intended for anybody but teenagers because they can easily be exploited and nobody cares. When lazy family breadwinners stepped in, of course they shouldn’t expect a living wage, isn’t that right? After all, teenagers were the target to be abused, not families. If only those parental fools would pursue a higher paying opportunity, then all would be well. That’s why there are no college graduates or well-qualified people looking for work, correct? Everybody who deserves a good job has one. All the jobs worth having that are left, and lord knows they are legion, are going begging because nobody else wants to work hard enough to get paid well. It’s the poor people’s fault as always. They of all the power and influence that comes with having no money. By the way, when your finished with your assignment here, step back through the looking-glass, will you, because your patently corporatist views are really too much of a muchness.

  • sceptikl

    Let me clue those of you that haven’t ever worked in the industry, or that haven’t for many years. A few things have happened that have brought this all to a head. First, in the 90′s there was an explosion of corporate restaurant chains that flooded the market with low priced food leading to the smaller owner operated businesses going under, or adopting the corp model of lowering quality, lower prices ( kind of like what wallmart and Lowes did to mom and pop operations ). Once most of the small guys were gone you started seeing the next evolution of corporate genius. The “support staff” i.e. bussers and food runners. they used to get paid minimum wage but the sharp lawyer/loophole finders figured if you claimed they were tipped employees ( which they are technically, it used to be they were tipped out by the server staff roughly 10% of our take based on their performance during the shift, but the tip out was a bonus not the primary mage for them), now they generally get paid 2.83 an hour like a server. Bamm, your labor costs just dropped, oh, did i forget to mention that the manager determines how much of my money is given to the busers? As well, every time a the public uses a credit card there is a surcharge, it varies upon which credit card is used but guess who pays that surcharge?..the customer, the house,??? nope the server pays for the privilege of you using plastic. oh and don’t forget those tip outs to the bussers/runners, guess who generally gets stuck covering their tax liability?? you got it the server. My apologies for the long windedness here but i have hardly scratched the surface of the Dickensian food service industry., I haven’t even mentioned that if you are sick and try to all out you will loose your job often, or the very high percentage of under-paid undocumented laborers, food that should be thrown out due to age or sanitation issues, or almost the worst part, the trend of people thinking that Mr Pinks ( Reservoir Dogs) argument is a good reason not to tip at all, or the contempt and disrespect we are treated with by far too many now adays. And for those who will say “well go to school then” first off, send me the money to do so i would be happy to, secondly, how dare you, does not everyone regardless of what work they do not deserve to have a roof over their head and some dignity?

  • Anonymous

    I think you are correct.
    Blame big corporations and big media for helping create our consumer-driven society. That’s one reason we have an obesity problem: our brains have been tricked over time to want, want, want – and most of the products we consume we don’t even need. But it’s that free-will principle.
    Opportunities are still there for most who want them, minus the mentally and physically deficient. Of course, the climb is longer and harder for those who don’t already have money. The reason many years ago we had a thriving middle class is because people could see the opportunities and see their way to advance to them. Also, technology happened, and that has either changed jobs or eliminated them, and it has meant that the work force must be prepared for today’s jobs. If people don’t get educated and/or trained, they will remain in poverty. It is cyclic.

  • Anonymous

    There are not enough jobs for skilled workers. Right wingers have made sure the jobs were outsourced.

  • Anonymous

    I have a couple of questions about your experience so readers can tell how generalizable it is.

    1. If that is your photo, it is clear you are white. Your experience of receiving a fair wage would not apply to people of color, or for that matter, to older white women.

    2. If you listened to the show, you will have heard the research that 80% of the tipped employees are not receiving even our inadequate federal minimum wage because tips are not high enough to make up the difference and because employers are cheating tipped workers out of the paltry sums due to them.

    3. The economy is worse now than in the 90s, and the majority of Americans have had to cut back on non-essentials–which includes eating out, or giving generous tips.

  • Anonymous

    Just a wild guess here: there are at least a couple of left-wingers who are scraping the top off that corporate pie, too. Start with some wealthy Democrats from California – Boxer, Pelosi, Feinstein. They did not get their millions from turning in empty bottles they collected off the side of the road. The Hollywood folks, too. None of those studios and production companies are not-for-profits.

    Go back across the country to Chicago and then Wall Street. Barack Obama’s campaign was financed by corporate titans. Before you make this kind of comment again, consider the kinds of companies that outsource jobs, then follow the politics of their CEOs and board members. Just for fun look up the Soros Family. They are the counterpart to the Koch family, whom media like Moyers and others will lead you to believe they are Satan himself (or herself). They’re the Soros Family but conservatives instead of liberals.

  • Vera Gottlieb

    And automation has also done it’s share of creating unemployment. Robots are fine…but only up to a certain point.

  • Anonymous

    In every state that pays tipped employees less than federal minimum wage, the employer has to make up the difference for any employee whose wages and tips don’t add up to at least the regular federal minimum wage. That’s not propaganda. That’s just a fact. But this idea that paying waitstaff a decent wage is going to cause service to suffer is wrong as well. In Washington State where I live, the minimum wage is quite a bit higher than the Federal minimum wage, and it applies to all employees, even employees who receive tips. Restaurants aren’t any more expensive here than they are anywhere else, and the waitstaff service level doesn’t suffer at all.

  • Anonymous

    In the 80s when technology began to show it could replace many workers, union people were among the first to suffer job losses. Many were drawing handsome compensation packages, but they were often uneducated but trained for doing a specific job on an assembly line. Is corporate America to blame for wanting to be more efficient, or is it the American worker who has, for whatever reason, failed to keep pace and prepare for a marketplace with higher and different demands?

  • Vera Gottlieb

    It is matter of education, which the rich can afford any time, others not. Whatever happened to ‘live and let live’? Ever since Reagan it has been ‘me, me, me’ and the country is still suffering from it. The rich found a way to screw the rest…a good dash of corruption and voila: the makings of a third world country.

  • Anonymous

    Just to note, Ms. Gottlieb, the “live and let live” mindset you reference begins to wane with creeping government invention. People who know what you need will be there to look out for you. They have lots of toys and big ideas to seduce you.

  • Vera Gottlieb

    Let me rephrase this ‘live and let live’. There is a difference between ‘making a living’ and ‘making a killing’. No one group has the sole right to live on this Earth – it is a common good that belongs to all. It isn’t there to be destroyed by any one nation or person.

  • The Gypsy

    Sit down, your math is dishwashy.

  • The Gypsy

    What a load of crap.

  • The Gypsy

    Try to do it all by yourself. See how much money you make. But paying someone $2 an hour won’t just make you rich, it will make you corrupt.

  • The Gypsy

    U need 2 go back 2 schul. You have zero grasp on economics and obviously did not watch the video. 10 cents a day??? Ring a bell? Jesus, before you comment, educate yourself. She covered that in depth in the video and her book. Sit down, you are out of your league here.

  • The Gypsy

    That’s why we call ourselves; Waitrons.

  • Marlene Lang

    Pretty clever, for a Waitron!

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know if you enjoy history, but if you do, then you will know that the rich have always been, as have the poor. Do I think that the “filthy” rich should move more of their wealth around? Sure. Many already do. They will still be rich, and the poor? Most of them will be just a little less poor.

    If I had a child, I would advise him/her to think of the person they most respect and admire, and suggest they find out how the person got to be that way. A real person they’ve come in contact with – not a celebrity or a Bill Gates type. What kind of education did the person get? Where? What kind of special training? What kinds of risks has he/she found necessary? Those are the kinds of people I would want my child to focus on. It would dissuade them from envy, hopefully, and help them have reality goals. If they rise above them, as millions of ordinary people have managed to do, great. Envy is the ugliest of the seven deadlies, and we have politicians who are really churning it up among people in our country.

  • FDRliberal

    The fact is America has outsourced much of it’s ‘unskilled’ labor force, thanks to Republicans, and far too many Democrats. What do remain are service worker jobs.

    Some people say service workers need more education to get better jobs or start their own business, but the fact is there are only so many ‘skilled’ jobs out there and most people are not entrepreneurs.

    Many of these service jobs are just as grueling as factory jobs but pay far less. These folks work hard and deserve a living wage. Period.

  • Vera Gottlieb

    So many people need to realize that this Earth does NOT belong to them alone, that they share it and that it behooves them to take care of it for future generations – rich and poor. With all our education and advances in technology, etc. we are still as savage as day one. As for college/university education…not much respect or admiration. Students get brainwashed and almost incapable of thinking for themselves. There are street- wise people and there are book-wise people – I rather rely on the common sense of the street-wise. And all those doing menial jobs are also part of our society – by no means are they to be looked upon as second class and thought of as disposable.

  • Vera Gottlieb

    Oh, yes…the US is rapidly turning into a third world country. The rich, the poor and a vanishing middle class.

  • Anonymous

    Markers for a Third World country include lack of access to medical care, clean water, electricity, transportation, proper shelter, education and proper nutrition. Many of these societies endure political corruption and torture. No freedom of press. No democracy. In this country even the homeless have community shelters and places of worship to help them, as well as agencies to help them pay utility bills and to buy food. Public education is free.

  • Anonymous

    I agree we should care for our earth. But maybe Earth has a life, just like a person, and when its time comes to die, so it will. When it is no longer productive, for whatever reason, it will die. Maybe it won’t be human action, but something greater and more powerful – something atmospheric that no human can control. There are so many wrongs, but life just is as it is. There have always been people who have a means to make a living – that is the key – and those who don’t. As you’ve heard it said, what you or I see as a treasure or great wealth is unimportant to other societies.

  • Vera Gottlieb

    Try reading some foreign news to see what the world thinks of the US. If people would be earning a living wage, instead of a hunger wage, there would be no need for agencies to help them along. Slowly and surely, the US is turning into a third world country – it has reached the apex and is now in decline, just like any other previous empire.

  • Vera Gottlieb

    What the world needs is countries less sanguine, less destructive and more respectful of others – even if their lifestyles don’t resemble ours. We are a myriad of diversity, so why is the West forcing other cultures to live like we do? Are those cultures forcing us? No! As I’ve stated before….live and let live.

  • Anonymous

    Seems they still want to attend our universities, buy products we create and produce and emulate our celebrities. Maybe you are referring to the image of our leaders. I agree with you there. I agree, too, that empires do decline. Corruption, inequality and wars are all present. If it’s to be, it is. When I was coming along, young people voiced their opinions and demonstrated about wars and causes. The only recent occurrences I can think of are the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street. The latter fizzled because it never became a real movement with goals and plans to reach the goals. Like the Tea Party or not, it has made a splash. At any rate, younger people seem apathetic and willing to let the government do as it pleases, including support them. Many of them – not all of them.

  • Vera Gottlieb

    Products you create? Made in China and then shipped back to the US is more like it. Outsourcing jobs made China what it is today – the next world power, like it or not. And while the US is busy leaving piles of rubble all over the world, China is conquering the world without firing a single shot. Your political system is a shambles, your judicial system is a shambles, your social structure is a shambles. Social conscience totally non existent – sink or swim, you are on your own. The American dream has turned into a nightmare.

  • Michael

    This is for the gypsy, just curious have u ever worked in the restaurant service industry? I have for close to 20 years and u tell me to go back to school and check my math. Let’s see I’ve taken college Calculus I, II, and III. Have u? I understand the argument but at the same time if u bring the wage up on the service industry u increase the costs of the product and at the same time u decrease the tips that most servers make which if u had ever worked in the service industry would know would take money out of the servers pocket.

  • Anonymous

    What can I say? Move to a country that better suits you and that you can take pride in. Where would that be, 365 days a year?

  • Vera Gottlieb

    There is nothing wrong with having pride in your country, but…one also has to be grown-up enough to admit when things are going wrong and speak out. ‘My country, right or wrong’ doesn’t cut it. Reminiscent of Germany’s ‘Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles’. If the American way of life suits you, fine…but don’t impose it on others, especially not by violent means. Not a way to make and keep friends.

  • Anonymous

    I think that’s a first – being accused of violence by someone who doesn’t even know me. That said, I do agree that our country is in trouble, but I am certain that I see its issues differently than you. We have huge societal change issues, as well as leadership problems in D.C. The seedy Bill Clinton and the war-crazy George Bush were not up to par. That man now in the Oval Office seems like a nice enough person but has no clue about leading a country. Maybe at the end of his term he can get a really big-paying job after putting President of the United State of America on his resume. Before that, it had little on it that spoke of leadership. Maybe in the coming three years he will do something to redeem himself. (Not likely. He is surrounded by “yes” people and probably doesn’t know there’s anything wrong. He just is.)

  • Vera Gottlieb

    The US has major internal problems and it is time to recognize them and be honest about it. Could start by limiting the terms that Senators and Congressmen can serve – it certainly would help reduce corruption. Introduce more political parties – ‘the lesser of two evils’…what kind of a choice is this? Introduce proportional representation, thereby giving voters a bigger voice. Participatory democracy might help too. These problems are not solved from one day to the next but ignoring them is no solution either. Got to face the music.

  • Anonymous

    Most caring Americans are deeply concerned about the course our country has taken. It is not healthy, but it is not in dire straits – yet.

    The disagreements come on what the priorities are for fixing the wrongs, who will step up to do it, and how to pay for it without additional taxes. As we know, the middle class, already burdened, seems to absorb the lion’s share of taxes, and the country’s economy is recovering very slowly. We currently do not have a sitting president or his Congress who appears to give a damn about any of this. It’s all posturing, speechmaking and photo opps from both sides of the aisle.

  • Vera Gottlieb

    The notion that lowering taxes is a cure-all is so flawed, it is sad. Of course, the rich don’t mind at all paying less taxes – if at all. Take a look at the Scandinavian countries – high taxes and yet a very high standard of living. No people rummaging through garbage bins or living under bridges. The middle class is being financially exhausted for the benefit of the 1%, who see nothing wrong with this. It is time to seriously take to the streets. Pacifism a la Gandhi just doesn’t work any more. An eye for an eye is how I see it.

  • Anonymous

    Please don’t compare the U.S. to Scandinavia. Do your research and you will understand.
    The entire population of the counties that comprise Scandinavia is about that of two large metro areas in the U.S. The economy of the region would not even compare to California’s. Those countries have strict immigration laws, meaning they do NOT allow people to just sneak across borders, take up residence and work there. About 90% of their population is native-born. Recently one of the countries – I believe it is Sweden – is beginning to have financial problems. The issue: declining employment and fewer taxes. When they reach a certain point, services will decline and you can expect some growing poverty pockets. In a thriving economy, most able adults must be productive – holding jobs, paying taxes.
    A former work colleague visited Finland about five years ago on a teaching fellowship. He had to jump through many hoops.

  • Vera Gottlieb

    I happen to be living in Europe, so I am not exactly an ignoramus. My point with Scandinavia, and other European countries is, taxes – for the most part, are being put to work for the benefit of the populace, i.e. you can see where your taxes are going. A social conscience that is so lacking in the US. The entire world is starting to see declining employment, you can’t expect ever-lasting growth on a finite planet. This book might interest you: ‘Imagine living in a socialist USA’.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, I will consider the book.
    The world now is not the one I grew up in, which I recall as inspirational and pleasant. Consumerism, technology and changing social structures have put in motion some enormous changes. We will adapt or expire, literally and figuratively. Voters are apathetic, so politicians will continue to have their way with us.

  • Helen Gould Sanders

    I think it would be great for restaurant workers to earn more money, but I’ve always considered it the same as a “commission only” job. I waited tables and bartended for over 20 years and made WAY more money at that than anything else. I did the “right” thing and went to school for radiology. The bottom fell completely out of that, and now I wish I had just stuck with bar work – I wouldn’t have $70,000 worth of student debt and would be earning as much as any X ray tech. One thing – I always worked at places that treated the staff extremely well! One place would even ban a customer if they didn’t believe in tipping. The owner would sit down with them and explain how it worked. If they didn’t like it, they were asked to not come back! I wish I could go back to it, but I’m too old! I always had a ton of fun, plus it’s full time money for part time work. Of course NONE of this applies to chains – NEVER worked at any of them. Good luck to those still in it. And fast food – they should make TWENTY $ an hour!

  • Anonymous

    What a ridiculously biased story.

    Millions of workers outside the food industry have fluctuating wages. Millions have ZERO minimum wage.

    It is called a commission based job or self employment.

    The guy doing shoe shine makes exactly zero an hour, unless he finds a customer to pay for the shoe shine.

    Bathroom attendants, valet parking workers, make ZERO an hour in most cases unless they are tipped.

    The self employed painter of plumber of the landscaper that comes to work at your home make exactly ZERO an hour unless he lands a paying job.

    Ever heard of the Avon lady or the Tupperware party lady or the Mary Kay Lady? They have NEGATIVE minimum hourly wages. They need to spend money in to buy products in the hope of making some money.

    Completely ridiculous to of Bill Moyers and Ms. Jayaraman to claim that “only restaurant workers” have fluctuating wages below the national minimum wage.

  • Invasive Evasion

    That’s an irrelevant and silly criticism that ignores the distinction between a paid employee and an independent contractor. Did any of the important points being made in this program register and generate any outrage, or is your comment intended to distract attention from those important points.

  • Invasive Evasion

    How about we take the money away from the billionaire shareholders, and use it to pay the people actually doing the work a fair wage?

  • Invasive Evasion

    You’re committing the fallacy of the false dichotomy. How about keeping the number of waitresses the same, paying them fairly, and reducing the profits siphoned off by the shareholder class?

  • Invasive Evasion

    That’s like saying that a person with cancer doesn’t deserve any treatment because they should have worked harder at not getting cancer. The issue of how to avoid being a member of a class of workers is entirely different than the issue of whether that class of workers is fairly paid. Menial laborers perform necessary tasks and make up the core of a work force. The issue is not how a specific individual can avoid a menial job, but whether the people actually doing those menial jobs (which must exist) deserve a livable wage.

  • Invasive Evasion

    Soros funds left wing causes, like defending workers’ rights. The Kochs want to see workers utterly stripped of all rights so that bosses like themselves can exploit them with no restrictions. Your equivalency doesn’t hold. Your comment also has no relevance to the original point about outsourcing.

  • Invasive Evasion

    People work in low paying jobs by choice. That’s false. People work at such jobs because of desperation.

    Increasing the minimum wage increases consumer costs. That’s false. You can increase wages by reducing the profits stolen by the billionaires and allowing the people who earned it to keep it.

    The ACA caused people to not spend during Christmas at your mall, and deprived your daughter of her choir experience. That is false. The ACA helps reduce health care costs for most people.

    “A lower minimum wage will result in higher prices and fewer jobs.” Either you’re contradicting yourself, or you meant to say “higher” instead of lower, which is a repeat of your previous false statement.

  • Invasive Evasion

    The difference is that a person seated at a table you served had already decided to eat in your employer’s restaurant. You didn’t “sell” them anything. Providing a pleasant experience as a “host” is quite different than “selling” someone a meal they wouldn’t have otherwise wanted to eat.

  • Invasive Evasion

    Anyone can run a successful business using volunteer labor. If you can’t afford paid workers, then yes, you should run a sole proprietorship.

  • Invasive Evasion

    So workers should stop being fools and avoid menial jobs (since it’s purely a matter of choice). In your economic vision the CEO of McDonalds would personally serve every burger himself? He would scrub the kitchen and mop the floor too? Can you see a flaw in an economic system that only has “good” jobs? Once you realize that menial jobs are essential, then maybe you can also realize that the people doing them deserve a livable wage too.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe the question is:
    Should certain job classifications be re-considered for upgrading? What is the worth of the job – and this would vary with the entity hiring – and what are the qualifications? Does the worker meet the qualifications and performance standards? Does just breathing and showing up qualify a worker to hold even a menial job? Immigrants and older workers now perform jobs that once were held by teens and college students. How has this changed the equation?

  • Invasive Evasion

    How about “creeping government intervention” that stops greedy sociopaths from destroying the environment, exploiting workers, and manipulating or cheating consumers. We cannot stand up to corporations as individuals. We can only stand up to them by uniting, through our government.

  • Invasive Evasion

    Envy is trivial compared to greed, to exploitation, to lying, to manipulating, to the willingness to cause harm and destruction for the insatiable quest to accumulate ever larger amounts of useless wealth.

  • Invasive Evasion

    Our planet is dying now because we organize our economy around the psychopathic value system of corporate greed. And if by “something atmospheric” you are referring to global warming, it certainly isn’t something “no human can control.” It is the result of the unnecessary burning of fossil fuels. Failing to realize and appreciate the value of the only home we have is the ultimate expression of short sighted foolishness. Your casual philosophical cultural relativism dismissal of the severity of environmental issues doesn’t change that fact.

  • Invasive Evasion

    We are a third world nation by many standards. The Reagan era planted the selfish greedy seeds of our destruction, and began the modern reincarnation of wealth inequality and corporatism. Reagan took a vile plutocratic value system and packaged it as lovable down to earth uncle Ronnie. The quest to drive up prices for the gamblers in the stock market casino is exactly why corporations behave so immorally. It doesn’t matter how much harm you cause, as long as the gamblers can unload their stock for a higher price. That type of “investing” shouldn’t exist. The Community Reinvestment Act prevented banks from discriminating against people who WERE qualified for loans.

  • Invasive Evasion

    You weren’t personally acused of violence, US foreign policy was (quite accurately). Of course Obama can’t lead, because republicans have vowed to block him on anything he does, even if it’s something they originally supported, or if they must destroy the country to stop him. If you’re suggesting he should ignore the right wingers and just do what he can with executive authority alone, I would agree with that.

  • Invasive Evasion

    No, the bulk of the lying and the politics of hate are coming from the right. It’s not even remotely equivalent. Taxation is not the problem. An economic system that doesn’t distribute profits back to the people earning them is the problem. That is the real middle class burden.

  • Anonymous

    The Soros Bros made their billions from hedge funds, and mostly they buy political favors via contributions to presidential candidates like Mr. Obama. Note that the Justice Dept. has not sent one big fish on Wall Street to jail. You are black-and-white thinker. Don’t respond to comments that are off-message.

  • Invasive Evasion

    We absolutely should compare ourselves to more socially and economically successful nations. The diversity in the US makes cohesive behavior much more difficult, but it doesn’t negate the necessity of acting as a nation, rather than a group of predatory self serving individuals.

  • Invasive Evasion

    It’s congress, particularly the extreme right wing members of congress who are morally and intellectually unfit for public office. And who puts these failed specimens of humanity into power? The voters in their gerrymandered districts who utterly fail as citizens and human beings.

  • Invasive Evasion

    If an employee did decide to open a business, and run it in a responsible and fair way, they could not compete with giant corporations who play by an entirely different set of rules.

  • Anonymous

    I find it sad that in the USA, with all its opportunities for free education, that menial jobs are being vied for. These jobs once went to teens – not heads of households. Something is off with a society that over-values menial jobs in lieu of encouraging its citizens to prepare for better-paying jobs.

    The people who provide the jobs take risks to do so – starting with huge corporations like McDonalds. Anyone who has owned a business or worked in financial operations for one understands this. Jobs are valued according to their worth to the company/corporation. If people are willing to work for the pay offered, that’s a personal choice. Many of these people are immigrants who were not asked to come here, or “single moms” who continue to have kids they can’t support. Ignorance is pulling down our country, and is has changed the structure of hiring practices. Corporations or small companies must make a profit, or they disappear. Write your congressman. Email Obama. Give more to charity. What else can I say?

  • Anonymous

    Step away from your computer. Go unite!

  • Anonymous

    I don’t disagree with you, but our country is going through a tough transition right now, plus the reality of this: there have always been greedy rich, as well as generous and charitable rich, and there have always been poor. Stay with me on this thought:
    I’m reading Barbara Tuchman’s “A Distant Mirror” about the 14th Century. Talk about poverty. But my point is that society at that point in time in France mirrors our own. There were wealthy landowners, noblemen and knights. There were serfs dependent upon the lords of the land. Many of these people began to cut a new strata to the economy when they became trades people. Eventually they could buy their own land and become comfortable and secure, relatively speaking for those days. It’s always been so – long before the 1300s, and it will be that way in the 21st Century.

  • Anonymous

    Seems you have taken on all the ills of the world, and your world has many ills. I have no idea what your issues are – I am not asking as I can’t help you – but consider counseling, meditation or prayer. Get a more spiritual life to quell that anger. You seem very unhappy, bitter and overwhelmed by the world you live in.

  • Invasive Evasion

    I have an alternative proposal. Rather than medicating ourselves with belief in magical powers, let’s embrace the ugliness of reality, and get pissed off enough to do something about it. Too much apathy is the problem, not too little. Anger is the inevitable and justified consequence of a conscience combined with knowledge.

  • Anonymous

    You seem to have enough anger for several large cities. Go win the world.

  • http://wp.elleseemarz.net/ Ellemarz

    I’m surprised at how much controversy this issue has raised. I would have thought people would be more sympathetic toward one of the most exploited industries in the US today. Some commentators are confusing the specific for the general. It is certain that some wait-staff make good wages through tips (as mentioned below), but in general, most earn a microscopic wage and then are not guaranteed tips. Someone mentioned that tips are “free” but they are not. The IRS taxes all tips at 15-18%. If you are caught not declaring tips, you can be fined and serve jail time. So, the notion that restaurant servers get untaxed money is mythical and serves more as a distraction to the real issues underlying this discussion: Why aren’t people paid a living wage? How did we get to this “place” in which business owners manipulate the system in order to not pay for their labor AT ALL, and as a corollary, that WE ACCEPT THIS AS NATURAL? This isn’t just about service industry workers–it’s about everyone who works for a wage. It might be easy to disregard or dismiss this issue as exclusive to an industry, but it is not. What happens to a waitress can happen to all wage-earners. In fact, it has. Real wages haven’t significantly increased since the 1970s and if corporations could have us all working for tips, they’d chomp at the bit to get wages of any sort eliminated.

    What capital forgets and what Marx so clearly indicates, is that without labor, capital is useless. So, restaurants, like other industries, can continue to push down wages and force workers to use various sorts of welfare (that which is still available) to subsidize their profits, but eventually, there will be a tipping point when labor will say “no more”. It’s happened throughout history, it will happen again. The question where will our sympathies lay? Do we believe in fairness, something we claim is a kind of American virtue? Or do we worship profit at the expense of our humanity?

  • The Gypsy

    Then why would you ever quit? I have waited on tables for 20 years and still do after receiving 3 degrees from 3 colleges. I have worked in every area of FOH and BOH. Anthony can only speak from one point of view. And anyone arguing that waitstaff doesn’t deserve a raise from 2 dollars doesn’t understand serving or life in general. It is beyond ridiculous.

  • Anonymous

    In 1968, I worked for $1 an hour plus tips when minimum wage was $1.60 an hour. In 2011, with a college degree and forty plus years of experience in the finest establishments, I received $2.13 an hour plus tips. I am expected to pay half my tips to tipshare and taxes. My last job closed suddenly owing me over a thousand dollars in tips and salary which no one would help me collect. Almost virtually all of my salary went to taxes and MORE was due at the end of the year. Yet, I receive half of what it would cost to live from Disability. No sick days, no vacations, no breaks, no food, no respect, no nothing. If you are a woman, you are not manager but head waitress.

  • Anonymous

    Servers are not contract labor. You seem to be very confused about this industry. As a server, I am often expected to be the hostess, server, busser, cashier and free labor to clean their restaurant. All for $2 an hour. There’s no guarantee you will get a table, much less receive a tip. Servers are completely vulnerable. That landscaper has a business and obvious tax breaks. Servers are employees not contract labor.

  • Anonymous

    In Texas, servers are paid $2 an hour plus tips. At lunch, I rarely made any money. I was sent home often (after doing all the opening work)
    without making enough to cover gas and parking. You often MUST work lunches to get the dinner shift. No one wants to work lunch so they blackmail you into working doubles.
    We are supposed to be paid for FOUR hours at minimum wage if we show up and get sent home. NEVER was remuneration offered to me. I worked full and overtime hours for decades and I’d like to know what exactly does the law do for the worker if this simple thing cannot be enforced?
    Bussers receive TWICE the salary of the server and get 2% of sales at most full service restaurants. Even when they do nothing for me. They get paid even if I DON’T get tipped. I paid for a clean uniform, gas, parking and tipshare. I am supposed to be paid minimum wage for the time worked before we open and after we close
    but that has never happened. I am supposed to have breaks but that rarely happens. As a server, I pay a lot to a busser who is supposed to be my right hand but most managements refuse to hire one busser per server and they are never there for me. In fact, Landry’s has a thing called ‘pre-bussing’ which means the server busses the tables. Why am I paying so much money for someone to not do their job? The bussers are performing work for the management which salaried employees are supposed to be doing. THERE’S A REASON FOR A BUSSER. SERVERS AREN’T SUPPOSED TO TOUCH DIRTY DISHES!! We must leave the floor and wash our hands whenever we touch dirty plates. THAT AIN’T HAPPENING. They take tips from me for the Hostess! That is insane. Hostesses are paid a salary. Why in the world would I tip a Hostess? Servers in full service restaurants DO NOT sweep, clean or clear tables. Landry’s has servers doing salaried work for $2 an hour. Diners, small restaurants and truck stops not included. And why do we have to tip the bartender on all our sales? We use to tip just on liquor, beer and wine sales. Corporations have taken the profession, dissected it and destroyed the art of fine dining service in this country.

  • Anonymous

    It will get rid of the amateurs like you that make life miserable for the professionals. You may have experience at corporately owned fast restaurants that masquerade as full service restaurants but professionals can handle three times the load of inexperienced, uneducated servers. You have to gauge the tip to the quality of service. In the end, the businesses with professionals will continue and the others whose only asset is newness or novelty will fail and people won’t come back.

  • Anonymous

    How much is in your retirement account? Did they provide you with health insurance, vacations, free food, breaks or bonuses? How much is your S.S. payment now?

  • Anonymous

    Most professional servers are college graduates or professional students. Many have Management degrees, Culinary degrees, Business degrees …
    Corporations have bastardized the system and now everybody thinks they can do it. When you break the work down to its basic jobs, one thing the computers cannot do is worth more than the surroundings or appearance of the food. That is SERVICE! Many people that come to full service restaurants have no idea that the server pays about 6% of the bill to others whether or not they are tipped at all. The reason why service is so bad these days is that management thinks because we make it look so easy, it is easy. So is flying on the trapeze but you don’t see everyone trying to do it.

  • Anonymous

    If you are speaking of fast food jobs, I can see how you’d think of it as menial but that is why we need at least $15 an hour wage for them. The discussion is more about tips. Tip employees work hard and no one wants to make less than $20 an hour takehome after performing all the mental and physical gymnastics required to have a successful evening.

  • Anonymous

    You want all women to work 20-30 hour minimum wage jobs then? With no benefits? Your child needs to get more money from you. A man who makes 23% more than a mother doing the same job.

  • Anonymous

    You obviously know nothing about restaurant service or you’d know that we know that we are the owners representative to the guest, guiding them and advising them to find the best choice for each guest. We know what’s the freshest, how everything is cooked, where it’s from and a vast number of things you don’t. There is a difference between fast food, buffet, banquet and table service.

  • Anonymous

    The system has been this way for decades in America. The tip is PART OF THE PRICE OF THE MEAL. You are given the choice of leaving a gratuity of say, 20% or a tip of 15% and anything less than that is a reflection on your Mama.

  • Anonymous

    That is what I tell potential employers when they won’t guarantee me sales. Do it your damn self.

  • Anonymous

    The restaurant business was profitable for servers until corporations began begetting chain restaurants that are just fast food outlets with servers. Olive Garden serves the same exact awful meatball in tomato sauce that I can also get on penne at Jason’s deli chain. Premade and yuch! The servers can’t possibly make any money with a 3 table station. Corporations cut stations in half and then in half again. They can’t figure out that by cutting the number of bussers and kitchen personnel, the ability of servers to do their job is greatly decreased. Servers don’t clean up the restaurant, they relate specials, takes orders, puts in order in the computer and serves the food and drinks. They don’t leave the floor, ever. That is what the busser is for. If the server leaves the floor, the busser takes his position and watches the tables until the server returns. LOL
    Only the rich can afford to go to great restaurant anymore and the public are being hypnotized by promotion to enjoy garbage with a smile. If that’s all you can afford, I suppose people just make do by going to buffets. You still should leave a tip though.

  • Anonymous

    I began working summers at age eight. Selling pretzels and delivering lunch and dinner to neighborhood businesses like the laundry, hairdresser, drugstore . . . At eleven, I started bussing and washing dishes and at 14, I was waiting tables. They said I needed an education to make more money. I got the education, experience and they said they couldn’t afford me but they always ended up hiring a man for more than I had asked for. They said I was overqualified. What?? It’s plain bull. I was the only professional fine dining server that I knew that wasn’t related to or sleeping with a manager or owner. If it’s women’s work, it’s menial labor. If it’s men’s work, it’s a serious business worth thousands a month.

  • Anonymous

    In 1970, you could get a good steak dinner for $10. You still can. Prices haven’t gone up that much in restaurants. It’s the surroundings you are paying for. If you can’t afford $50 meals, go to a cheaper restaurant or buffet.

  • Anonymous

    Hospitality is the second oldest profession in the world. Just like the oldest profession, it is mainly worked by women and considered menial labor. Most men couldn’t last one night, much less a week doing women’s work. You ever notice that fine dining is worked mainly by men? They have assistants and bussers all over the place. Ah, the inequities of life.

  • Anonymous

    What do you think President Obama just did? With healthcare, the playing field is a lot more level. Now we must educate those idiots that think that hospitality is a menial job.

  • Anonymous

    No robot can be truly hospitable. I hate the computer answering machines too.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, I agree. States are grabbing too much power by using the scads of money they steal from us daily. It’s easier to control people state by state. A strong federal government with one law of the land would stop the wealthy from slicing and dicing up our country into Koch size bits.

  • Anonymous

    You look at this subject like it’s an experiment. Do you actually have a real life. No children? How can you know anything about life?

  • Anonymous

    No one thought someone would be so immoral as to create a bill that had an open backdoor. Who were the politicians that introduced this repeal? What should we do legislators that allow ALEC to do all their thinking?

  • Anonymous

    Yes, I do know a little bit about the food service industry and understand all you say. Unless I receive poor service or have a rude or distracted wait person, I always tip 20%. My nephew is a supervisor at Starbucks – just got his degree- and I think of how hard he works. With most of the jobs created since 2009 being low-wage, the jobs outlook will not significantly improve until there are major changes in D.C. Business looks at the Obama administration as a wild card, and while it doesn’t trust the GOP much more, it at least sees it more in touch with business needs than Team Obama. The next three years will continue to be a slog for the job world.

  • Anonymous

    What did he do with healthcare? That’s not a smartass question but a serious one. Look at all aspects from a broad perspective – including from those who have lost insurance and others set to lose it this fall at sign-up – and tell me how you think that will play out. A decade from now, people may be down with it, but for the short term, even supporters predict we are in for a rough ride. You can’t take away a privilege or choice from one person and move it around to serve the interests of someone else – not when it concerns health or finances. Where do you think those subsidies come from?

  • Anonymous

    Not sure what you mean by open back door. Careful about referencing other human beings as immoral. There are laws of nature and man -made laws and societal norms that influence that definition, but not political ones.

  • Anonymous

    Carefully consider what you wrote. You don’t even know me. What gives you the right or authority to make those judgments? In another message you referenced someone else’s morals. Do you believe you are sanctified to the degree of rendering judgments on other humans, or are you emotional and frustrated? In any case, these are not my issues. They belong to you. If the world isn’t spinning in the direction you think it should, not my fault. You are in control of the space you occupy – not me and certainly not some politician who is totally indifferent to you.

  • Anonymous

    You are correct about the costs of “finer” restaurants. They are with no apologies catering to that segment of the population that can afford them. The middle class is being relegated to third-tier everything, second-tier maybe. It will be the same with healthcare, too. Not to get into politics about that one, but I can already see it happening in the large metro area where I live. Fewer docs and hospitals are accepting Medicare and “certain” insurance policies. The second-and-third-tier facilities and docs are open to Medicare, Medicaid and affordable healthcare people.

  • Anonymous

    How do states steal from you daily? It actually depends on the state you live in. If they’re stealing from you, vote them out. Go to your consumer affairs agency.Complain. Hire an attorney. Report the wrongs to your media. My city’s primary newspaper and TV stations are all over our governor for ethical violations and he is likely to be defeated this fall. You can take much more action on the state level and get at least some degree of satisfaction.

    Think about what you are saying about that “one law of the land” that supposedly fits all. How is this a system of checks and balances? What if our inept Congress decides that certain states should not qualify for various benefits – e.g., road-building or educational funds? At least the states have the right to make decisions that could override them, or do their own thing.

    Any time the Feds take a piece of you, they don’t return it. Voters and taxpayers have many more rights and much more individual and personal authority if dealing with their state governments instead of the Feds. Think of the NSA and military over which you have zero say. Both proceed with secret missions and projects funded by billions over which no one is accountable. Why do you think The Guardian and The Washington Post just won Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting on these issues?

  • Michael

    I’ve been in the bar/restaurant business for over 20 years. I’m lucky I guess in that I’m a very experienced bartender and can always find a job, but saying that I now work 2 jobs and one I’ve been at for 14 years. I’ve had years where I’ve made over $100k and on average make more than most that have a college education. But again does anyone know the profit ratio of most restaurants not counting chains? About 8%, so again if u want to increase the wage of most servers ur going to put alot of small businesses out of business unless they raise prices. The problem is there are to many people who don’t understand the tipping process and leave nothing or way under tip. When u go to a restaurant that requires service tipping is expected and appreciated. Again I’ve been in the business for over 20 years and when I go to a restaurant I over tip because I know the next time I walk in that restaurant I will be more than taken care of. It’s part of the process.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe the subject requires a little too much reality for you. Actually, I have a rewarding and happy life that I am deeply grateful for – family, friends, education, job, spiritual life. These matter deeply to me, and they are my priorities. I am married but we both decided prior to marriage that we wanted careers – no children. Have nieces and nephews we greatly enjoy and are close to.

    If you have a chance, read or listen to “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. One of my primary takeaways has been: don’t allow life to domestic you. Be true to yourself and do your best. All I can say is that I have tried this, and so far, it has worked well for me. Not

  • The Gypsy

    My family told me to pursue education. I did. 3 degrees. It doesn’t matter at all if there are no jobs. The get an education promise of a stable job and future is the biggest fairy tale of all.

  • Anonymous

    No doubt, it’s a tough road for many Americans. If I had a child, I would teach self-reliance – especially to a daughter – and would try to lead them toward learning useful skills they could fall back on if the college degree failed them.

    Recently I worked for a state technical college system. I recall many stories of success, including a 65-year-old grandmother who earned a certificate in welding and nabbed a high-paying job in her immediate community. She had researched her city’s industries and businesses, and there was a demand for welders. I’ve had friends move across country to take jobs and discovered it was a new awakening for their lives. Some just needed to get away from mom and dad or romantic relationships that were going nowhere. I read not long ago that the jobs now most in demand are in technology, accounting and the trades (such as carpentry).

  • The Gypsy

    Honestly, I am skilled and educated in many fields and if 12 years in school hasn’t helped me get a job I doubt tech schools or moving across country is going to help. If you have kids, teach them to live off the grid and not depend on society for sustinenance. That is this world’s only hope. Education is not the answer anymore, even if it ever was.

  • Anonymous

    I am not commenting on his position but his inexperience and lack of perspective of this business. What would make you think that a dishwasher would know about what happens on the floor of a restaurant? To compare the profession of the Art of fine dining service to a dishwasher is ludicrous. I learned to wash dishes in elementary school. I spent a lifetime learning about the management and running of restaurants and the Culinary Arts. I have always respected all of the people that help keep business flowing. But you don’t ask the maintenance personnel to comment on what happens on the floor of restaurant. Five years as a dishwasher? Doesn’t sound like he had any ambition. I was out of the kitchen by age 14 and bussing and then waiting tables. It takes about ten years of experience in a good restaurant to get a position in a great restaurant.

  • Anonymous

    Helen, what makes you think washing dishes is a profession? What makes him think his pay would be comparable to that of a professional server?

  • Anonymous

    Please tell us where this place is located as it sounds like a good place to work. But you do realize that 99% of restaurants are not like what you describe?

  • Anonymous

    You really have little experience in this profession to think that all server positions are as good as the one job you had. Please tell us where this good job is located.

  • Anonymous

    Helen, jeans and t-shirt? You were selling your youth and good looks. I may have not been clear that I was speaking of full service restaurants. I have never worked in a place where you wear jeans and a T-shirt. You worked one job and try to make out like you know the industry. I’ve worked in 150 establishments in 40 years. From fine dining to cafes and I have found that the industry has reduced the servers profession to a sweatshop position.

  • Anonymous

    When I began my career, I had great expectations but as my older mentors were retiring, businesses were bought by corporations that reduced their costs by making ‘service’ a piecemeal job. Hospitality is an Art, whether you at a neighborhood family restaurant or enjoying a gourmet meal. You cannot teach it or piecemeal it out. Corporations are the antithesis of small business.

  • Anonymous

    That’s great. How many 65 year olds can do hard labor? I guess if they sat most their lives but after a lifetime of working hard, many cannot do such work as carpentry. And why would someone spend thousands and thousands to learn a new trade at 60 something? Maybe she had been a housewife most of her life?

  • Anonymous

    I suppose business will be as bad as the law allows. I think the biggest change in this world will come when schools teach a yearly class in Civics and Current Events. With a great emphasis on Ethics and Morality. Training our children to act with honor can be started in kindergarten with self-defense classes. The first thing a child needs to know is that they can defend themselves and rely on others around them to always act with honor and defend those weaker than them. And how the government works needs to be a daily discussion. Lord knows, if kids had a say in funding schools, it would be our major priority. As it should be. Maybe we will have Doctors that don’t take vacations with our retirement funds.

  • Anonymous

    In case you have your head in the sand, there are not enough jobs for the applicants available to work. This is nationwide. People are moving across the nation to take any job they can find. Like migrant workers moving with the seasons. The jobs available are paying very little and provide few benefits. The restaurant industry was once the provenance of family owned, family run businesses. Corporations are unfairly competing by eliminating essential positions and relegating the work to $2 an hour employees. A family owned restaurant cannot honorably eliminate these positions so they are disadvantaged economically. Remember, in most corporate restaurants, they have no maintenance or cleanup crews anymore. They force tip employees to do much of their cleaning. I cannot tell you how dirty some of these places are because in a corporation, there is NO ONE PERSON RESPONSIBLE. At Joe’s Place, you can just ask for Joe.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with you except about wages and want to point out that most family owned businesses are in business because they love what they do and can make a living at the same time. This is not a business for the fainthearted. Most chains are just rich people using poor people to make them richer. All owners want a profit but I go to restaurants with an owner on premise, answering the phone themselves on many occasions. This raise won’t hurt businesses that can accurately gauge their business to the number of people they employ. That means daily involvement if you can’t afford a manager who can do it for you.

  • Anonymous

    You seem to have no idea of how hard fast food workers work. And you felt you had to say something? Do the job and then comment. It requires lightning fast reactions, teamwork, great customer relation skills and the ability to work many machines and cash registers. They meet, greet, place your order, cook, prep, clean and maintain a clean kitchen and dining room and bathrooms. They don’t have janitors, cleanup crews or preppers. They do it all. $15 an hour is a good start.

  • Anonymous

    Arguing your silly arguments won’t do anything but slow down progress. You don’t need it explained again, you need to learn how to think for yourself. You speak from an imperious viewpoint that only can be from someone who knows nothing about which they speak. This isn’t a hypothetical argument. This corporate cheating has transferred their obligation to the employee to the government. I am sure it costs billions to some lawyer and accounting firm to expand their disenfranchisement from their employees. Soon, there will be a button and goods will pop out. There’ll be no use for workers except in the Hospitality Service industry. We need a Bill of Rights for these people.

  • Anonymous

    You don’t seem to know what a living wage is? Figure that out and get back to me.

  • Anonymous

    Many poor people are food insecure. They buy cheap foods. It’s as easy as that. With a little information, the populace seems to be changing their choices of food they purchase to prepare at home. And the price of meat. We are being forced to eat meatless foods which has the backlash of people learning to make nutritional non-meat foods taste good or remain slaves to cheap fast food. MOSTLY, IT’S THE ADVERTISING OF THIS GARBAGE THAT HYPNOTIZES OUR CHILDREN TO SCREAM ICE CREAM.

  • Anonymous

    Jobs were lost. How many were sent to other countries?

  • Anonymous

    When states are gerrymandered, the people have no say. You talk like we all have money to hire lawyers. Most Texans work at minimum wage jobs, not by choice but to survive. Are you aware that there are 10,000 people in Texas on hold, waiting for a callback EACH DAY, just to apply for food stamps? A state program! And most are refused or they receive $15 a month. If you receive less than a thousand a month in S.S., you only qualify for $15 a month in food stamps. That’s most of us older people. 70% of food stamp recipients are the elderly, children or disabled. Yet, the state of Texas continues to starve us with impunity. Don’t tell me about the state governments. My former employer owes me two weeks of tips and salary but no one is responsible. If I’d stolen over a thousand dollars from him, I’d have been in prison a long time. I could go on but you need a hobby where you can’t hurt others.

  • Anonymous

    Restaurant Employees need a Bill of Rights that is enforceable since we have no protection now.
    1. If we are scheduled and they send us home, they must pay us at least minimum wage for four hours.
    It cost money for gas, a clean uniform, parking and sometimes child or eldercare. They get paid regardless. If they cannot calculate expected sales, they will go out of business anyway. We are paid so little, management has little respect for our time and losses.
    2. If we don’t make at least minimum wage (like most lunches) on after tipshare total, the difference should be paid cash daily.
    If it goes on my check, it will disappear. Almost all of my paychecks for forty years were ‘prepaid void’. All of our salary goes to taxes and half our tips go to tipshare and then more taxes at tax time. Our pay is so low, I usually had to pay taxes at the end of the year even though I worked full and overtime hours. I paid the taxes on my tipshare for decades as charge tips are reported in full, not minus the tipshare.
    3. A workday with no breaks or food should be no more than 6 hours. Anything over 30 hours a week should be overtime.
    4. A free employee meal was the law and now they LET us buy certain menu items at half price. We need an employee meal that doesn’t cost us all we make at lunch. And time and a place to eat it or take home. Many places insist you stay and eat your meal at work. Often in a back hallway or in a cold basement smelling of mold. They often won’t let you take it home. At lunch, I rarely had the money to buy anything even at half price. And dinner starts just two to three hours later so we rarely can leave work from 10 am to 11 or 12 pm at night if we expect to make a enough to pay basic bills for a family of three. We have no place to put food to keep it cold as it’s against the law to put personal food in commercial units. And you don’t get paid for that time waiting for dinner.
    5. Servers should be paid minimum wage if they must come in before it opens or must stay after their last check closes.
    Servers are not free labor for the restaurant. In small family owned restaurants, the family can work as hard as they want but if I have no stake in the business, I am a server, not the busser, dishwasher, soup, salad or dessert prep, floor sweeper or kitchen cleaner. It’s bad enough that the servers are forced to be cashiers as well. That means that they must stay after work to check out which can take hours especially if they want the servers to do the bussers work. Management has little respect for servers and will hold them until the managers are ready to do the checkout. If they must pay minimum wage after the last check closes, they might speed that up. They won’t hire you if you don’t agree to do all the sidework that salaried employees should be doing. That should be illegal. I pay a busser to that work.
    6. A fixed schedule should be available for all employees. Adding shifts aren’t a problem but you are either a day person or a night person. Expecting me to work until 1 am and get up for a 10 am shift is absurd.
    7. Servers should not be forced to work day shifts to get the dinner shifts. When servers are paid properly, they won’t be forced into working long hours to barely survive. Lunch employees used to be paid minimum wage to make up for the lack of sales. They did the prep work for the busier night shifts. They were the less experienced servers that were waiting for someone at night to win the lottery, die or quit.
    8. Servers should not touch dirty dishes, that is what I pay a busser to do. It’s UNSANITARY. That ALONE should be enough. In diners or small restaurants, there’s time for servers to hit the bleach bucket should she need to. In full service restaurants, servers shouldn’t leave the floor and therefore cannot wash her hands. If you sing the Birthday Song while you wash your hands, that’s how long it takes to do it properly. Servers do not have that much time. Ever wonder where your server is? Someone handed her a dirty plate. ONE BUSSER PER SERVER IS REQUIRED UNLESS THERE IS ADDITIONAL HELP LIKE AN ASSISTANT OR MANAGER. If I am bussing tables too, I want the pay of a busser which is TWICE my salary.
    9. Expected sales should be understood. While sales cannot be truly guaranteed, I always state my expectations up front but many chain businesses have a business plan that would make me an average of thirty dollars a shift. These franchisers should give a more realistic plan to their franchisees that include higher wages for experienced and senior employees. To base a business plan on inexperienced, part time, cheap help will effect the product and service. Structuring a business in this way is immoral and will keep the owners asking why they aren’t increasing sales or why they are losing money?
    10. Bussers should be trained to do their job. Bussers are responsible for the tables and floors of the station they are working and maintaining the bus stations. They tend to the silver and make rollups when necessary. Servers may occasionally have to leave the floor for drinks or ordering but the busser should be there if a guest MUST look around for help. Many chains use the busser to do salaried work outside the servers station where they are working and I have to pay them at least 2% of my sales while they get twice my salary.
    It’s absurd that these basics must be spelled out but it’s a completely unregulated business. The Health Department is overwhelmed and underpaid. It’s as if the industry has lobbied away the publics’ right to know they are eating safe food from safe hands.
    Servers in full service restaurants aren’t hostesses, bartenders, bussers, dishwashers, floor sweepers, kitchen cleaners, soup, salad, dessert or bread preppers. No matter how you rewrite the book, servers serve. We must often lend a hand during rushes but businesses shouldn’t be allowed to franchise slave labor in their budgets. We start with regulating the chains and expanding the Health Department budgets.

  • Anonymous

    She did what she needed to do to support herself. She had worked in low-paying jobs, earned a GED, then enrolled in the technical college course. Ultimately she increased her wages and her standard of living.

  • Anonymous

    It really doesn’t matter what I think. Even if I empathize with these workers, there is little rationale from the perspective of the business to inflate the value of jobs that require little to no education, with skills training often done by the restaurant managers and trainers. These jobs were never intended as career positions but as starter jobs mostly for teens. I agree the minimum wage should be raised, but most people who work in these jobs would probably still be scraping by. I have no answers for pulling people out of poverty that is often generational.

  • Anonymous

    The housing bubble was a planned event, patterned after the housing bubble in the South in the late eighties and is explained in detail in “The Daisy Chain”. Read it and get back with me. And when a faux Congress creates the bills being passed in Congress and state governments across this country, by large corporate “non-profit” such as ALEC, it makes we wonder. When corporations became people, I knew there’s something terribly wrong in America. And now the Supreme Court has sold our country out to corporate interests who own the media in this country. They pay themselves to advertise lies and distortions. Like you.

  • Anonymous

    Women have been oppressed by men since the beginning of time. I judge many of your statements as quite ignorant and you show a great disconnect from reality. Just trying to add some reality to your world.

  • Anonymous

    I am a little too busy trying to buy enough ice to keep what little food I have, cold. Trying to figure out how to live on $5 a day for food. Trying to figure out how not to be burden on my friends and family after four decades of working full and overtime. I am glad you have such a lovely life but your lack of understanding seems to start with your espousing answers when you don’t know the questions. Your inability to understand what it’s like to be a single woman in America. You should go to your areas food bank and meet the people who are in need. You may find they have a disabled child, a sick Mom, an elderly Grandma or be the spouse of a disabled Veteran. More than likely, she has been molested, abused or raped at some time in her life and likely didn’t have the money for a college education or she graduated and never found adequate employment while repaying a student loan for decades. Or all of those. Live in your fantasyland and all will be well. For you. You are the problem. It’s all perspective.

  • Anonymous

    I realize you cannot understand those beneath you which tells me that you are just too good for us. You know best. We should just give up and die quietly. You are right about one thing, poverty is often generational just like wealth.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe you put too much stock in the media. Take a long break from watching the news. It doesn’t appear to help your situation.

  • Anonymous

    You speak from deep anger and frustration, but that is not my fault. A person’s reality is what he or she knows and lives. You have yours, and I have mine. My great fortune in my life has not been monetary but to have had parents and an extended family and friends who have cared about me. They helped me make good choices. No one has a perfect life, though, and that is reality for most people.

  • Anonymous

    I know what it is for me, but I am sure it is different for Bill Gates. That is the fallacy and silliness of all of these arguments stirred up by media and certain politicians bout inequality.
    People are not equal in physical or other properties. Never have been. Never will be. There are people with extraordinary intelligence and others who are mentally deficient.
    In many cases a person’s path in life is determined by the family he/she is born into. That doesn’t have to be the case. The most financially successful person in my extended family was born into near-poverty and lived for many years with a father who verbally abused her. She was motivated to get an education, graduated with high honors, worked extremely hard and over the years became a multimillion. Some family are jealous, others are proud of her. The jealous ones never pursued their education, though they had that choice, and never focused on what they needed to do to make a, as you would say, “livable wage.”

  • Anonymous

    What used to be professions, are being dumbed down to minimum wage jobs. Anheuser Busch had 150 men in the Brewhouse before computerization. Now there’s seven, I understand. Of course when the men made the beer, there was very little beer trashed while in production. Now they trash a lot of it because they have no human intervention when they need it. That is why microbreweries are taking over.

  • Anonymous

    Have you forgotten that as a server, we are privy to the machinations that comprise the business deals made. We hear both sides, the ones buying and the ones being bought. Servers know more than both sides do put together. We hear the snickers and the high fives. More than I care to witness. It’s disgusting how some people drool and hoot after screwing over others. Remember Chrysler? TWA? Hostess? Anheuser Busch . . . Reverberations are still being heard today. Union busting. Or the last privately owned slaughterhouse in southern California being singled out and gobbled up? Maybe you need to stop ruminating and learn some real facts. Read the book, read the history and look at what is happening now. I didn’t see many of these events on the news, I have worked right in the middle of many large corporate events. I am the fly on the wall, watching as the collapse began and unfolded. You speak from a hypothetical viewpoint about things of which you seem to know nothing about but find it necessary to spout your absurd theories. It’s so easy to look down on those who have not had the advantages that you have had and make judgments based on what you perceive to be the problem. Typical. You remind me of chair jockeys that try to compartmentalize the profession of Hospitality. No computer screen can recreate the Art of Hospitality. The truth is that a computer is neither happy or sad to see you. People go where people care for them.

  • Helen Gould Sanders

    I worked in the industry for 30+ years and did everything from white glove service to burgers at a bar. I’ve worked every position in the industry but head chef. I can’t count how many places, but over 40 – I tend to land a good place and stay, have never been fired, and have even had owners track me down in person to come back after I quit. I really am sorry if you don’t make any tips, but I found the absolute best money is in a private owned relaxed environment. Even the wine bar that had bottles of 1982 Chateaux Margaux let us wear whatever we wanted, and the fillet mignon and $$$$ bottles of wine were perfection. I guess you don’t have nearly as much experience as you wish you did. Though I was young and cute, if you couldn’t cut it you were gone. Maybe if you weren’t so elitist you’d get tipped!

  • Helen Gould Sanders

    I didn’t quit (fool) I went to another profession, something you obviously have failed at. And sorry, but fully clothed in the 90s. Oh, and EVERY TIME THE PRICES GO UP ON THE MENU YOU GET A RAISE. DUH. You and the other one have really horrible attitudes. No wonder you don’t make any money! And sorry, but next life time plan things out a bit better. You won’t be so bitter and disappointed. Oh, and go on disability. That’s why it’s there.

  • Anonymous

    You took those courses and can’t add simple numbers? You reasoning is terribly flawed. Obviously you are a troll.

  • Anonymous

    Women like you make all women look bad. Schadenfreude. Look it up. And you use ridiculous arguments that aren’t reality.

  • Anonymous

    I am not commenting on her great achievements. I commend her and am glad that she is making an example of what women can accomplish. Kudos to her. But for most women, by the time you get that old, your body is used up from working 24/7 for a lifetime. Lack of healthcare for the average restaurant worker often ends with a heart attack. Service employees are considered the top stress jobs when applying for insurance. Everyone I know in the hospitality industry has health issues due to the incredible stress factors. You only start to make a little money when it gets busy. It’s like pushing a boulder up a mountain for about 4 hours without a break. Then you must have your wits about you to collect the money quickly but accurately. You can’t put the boulder down until it reaches the top. Then you have to clean the mess up. That is a job in itself. You can rarely just leave as management now wants servers to do the bussers work.

  • Anonymous

    You really do not realize that our President just saved our entire society by getting the ACA implemented? That alone indicts your judgment. Big business is deliberately using billions of dollars that are tax deductible donations to organizations that are working daily to deprive us of benefits we worked and paid for. Manipulating our legislators who grow wealthy from our losses. THE ONLY THING PREVENTING THIS ADMINISTRATION FROM MOVING FORWARD IS THE REPUBLICANS WHO ARE SITTING ON THEIR HANDS. Wake up. It’s not perfect but since restaurants rarely offer insurance, this won’t fix it but it’s a first step.

  • Anonymous

    A cousin’s husband was on the fast track in management with a very well-known hotel chain but hated it. They wanted to promote him and transfer him to a city he and his family did not want to go. He found another job well away from the hospitality industry, but that was in better economic times.

    The reality is that it is a tough industry unless you are way up the ladder. Waiting tables is NEVER going to be way up any ladder – unless you are topless. You get great tips, but it takes a desperate woman to do this. Working in fast food restaurants is not for people who have expectations of a comfortable, secure life. It never has been. All of my adult life – until the Great Recession – most of those fast food jobs were held by teens. Their pay was never intended to raise a family on. There are just some really hard realities for millions of people in this sour economy, and that is one of them.

  • Anonymous

    You are correct about something. I do not realize the ACA as a saving our entire society. What about those who lost insurance and now have to pay anywhere from 5% to 25% more for insurance? Most of the people who have experienced this are middle class or lower middle class people who have worked very hard to buy their own insurance, in lieu of lottery tickets, booze and ciggies. You can’t deny Americans something in order to move the benefit around to someone else. That is why polls still show outrage of most Americans for ObamaCare. New poll out yesterday that shows really bad numbers for him.

  • Anonymous

    All the t/gop does is just keep Proving they don’t care one bit about the POOR or the Middle Class!! They Prove it is the rich against the rest of US!!!!!!! WAKE CHRILDEN PLEASE!!!!

  • The Gypsy

    Cite your data. Because it is bs.

  • Anonymous

    Look up the information if you want to know. Last I heard it was 4.5-6 million Americans who lost insurance. Two other more compelling numbers:
    * Americans (those of us who do pay income taxes) have spent about 2 trillion dollars to uproot an insurance system most Americans wanted to keep.
    * In 2009 your president stated that 30-40 million people were uninsured. So a “whopping” 8 million have signed up? So what?
    What happened to all those other millions – did they die? Move to another country? And don’t even get me started on the subsidies others are paying out so those relative handful who signed up can afford I. Taxpayers are picking up the bill, and some of them are so stupid they don’t even realize it.

  • JC

    I agree. Get off your I-pads, Smart Phones, sitting and watching T.V., texting, arses, and

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