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Low Wage Jobs Need Equality Too…

PRATT: Harlem Bar-B-Q is going off at 4:30 in the afternoon. It’s a neighborhood restaurant on Lenox and 137th with inexpensive southern food like smoked ribs and a whole bunch of colorful frozen drinks, all paired with loud hip-hop music. And the waitstaff seem like they enjoy working there. But even so, they still have to hustle for tips.


The thing is, sometimes in this community it’s kind of tough.

PRATT: Andrae Stewart is the general manager and co-owner of Harlem BBQ


Servers will go to a table. they might give tremendous service. the check might be 95 dollars. and they might leave 100 dollars and say thank you very much.

PRATT: Stewart remembers the struggles of being a waiter. He says he’d like to pay his servers more, but worries that since the restaurant is in a low-income community, raising prices to pay for higher wages might put him out of business. So when his servers get stiffed, he says he tries to make it up out of his own pocket. And sometimes he even talks to the tables.


Tips is what they really rely on to feed their families. You know if the service was poor. That’s one thing, let us know the service was poor. But if it wasn’t, the fact of the service can you please make sure out of the kindness of you heart you just tip them.

PRATT: Not everyone thinks this responsibility should be the customer’s. Saru Jayaraman (JAI AH RAMEN) is a national restaurant employee advocate. In between dropping her kids off at school and heading up the Food Research Center at the University of California, she says servers need to be paid more.


We are at a fork in the road in restaurant industry in the US. And really as a nation.

PRATT:  Jayaraman is also the author of the new book, Forked, about about the split between restaurants where customers are expected to tip and ones where the tip comes built into the price of a meal.


There are plenty of restaurants taking what we call the high road to profitability, providing livable wages and working conditions. But it’s not the standard followed by the chain restaurants that employ the bulk of workers in the industry.

PRATT:  Now, a few high-end New York restaurants are trying out no-tip meals. But it’s not something a lot of smaller restaurants are doing. At least yet. And for now, they don’t have to. New York’s new minimum wage hike doesn’t apply to restaurant servers.


It unfortunately leaves out almost 300,000 tipped workers, 70% of whom are women. And they are the poorest women in the state and in the United States.//

PRATT: And Jayaraman says this can causes more problems for women, it can subjects them to sexual harassment. Shanita Thomas agrees. She’s been working in restaurants for 11 years. And while on the train on the way to working the Bronx, she remembers one experience particularly well.


This is a funny story. This one particular guy he used to come the restaurant often and he would have his coffee, and i would serve him and he’d be like “oh hey big tittied black girl, you got enough milk in them jugs for my coffee?” And I’d tell my manager and i’d tell my manager he’s larry he’s a regular customer.

PRATT: Thomas says these interactions made her feel helpless.


When we’re working for tips, you feel like you can’t go and tell your boss anything, because gonna say something. They’re going to come and say something to the customer. And nine times out of ten they’re not going to leave you any tip.

PRATT: Thomas doesn’t wait tables anymore. Now she makes makes more money with a new job as a manager at Yankee Stadium, where here train is headed. She still has to deal with customers, but says least they don’t control her income. Which happens to be $15 an hour, what the new minimum wage in New York will be in a few years. And, is $15 enough?


Hell no. Sorry excuse my French. I’m not even going to. It’s really not enough. Because one the rent is like $1500 dollars, Then you have to worry about transportation. then utilities, phones bills. So even with me making 15 dollars an hour. I can just make it.

PRATT: It’s still going to be a lower wage for tipped workers for a while. With the state budget already locked in, it doesn’t appear there will be any more wage increases on the horizon. So for now, the only 15 can servers hope to see, is at least 15 percent the end of a meal.

Tyler Pratt, Columbia Radio News


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