“The United States of America federal government requires a wage of at least $2.13 per hour be paid to employees who receive at least $30 per month in tips. If wages and tips do not equal the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour during any week, the employer is required to increase cash wages to compensate,” – Federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
Just in case you’ve never heard of it, there are people out there, mostly restaurant and bar servers that earn a minimum wage of $2.13 per hour. The argument that has stood for over 29 years in the United States is that if a person earns at least $30 per month in tips and the sum evens out with the regular minimum wage, the $2.13 wage is permissible. This law is ridiculously unfair because it takes a person’s hard-earned tips into account, tips that should belong entirely to them while they earn a fair pay. Workers are set up to rely solely on the kindness of customers to survive.
For many, like this mom from Austin, Texas, when federal taxes, social security, and medicals are deducted, you could be left with barely $10 at the end of an entire work period.
Aaliyah Cortez has a child to provide for and she’s expected to be extra-nice to customers if she’s going to be inundated with enough tips to reach a reasonable income. After working for over 70 hours at a bar in Austin, the mom couldn’t contain her anger anymore and decided to make a TikTok to show the world how she was being maltreated by federal policies.
She made a video of her earnings showing how she worked for 70.80 hours that week. She should have made $150.11, but when her social security, Medicare, and Fed Income Taxes were deducted, she was left with $9.28. She always earns between $4 and $11 after deductions and was not happy about the situation.
Tipping culture saves lives
Aaliyah wrote: “I cannot afford to live off of $2.13 an hour, so I solely rely on the generosity of my customers.”
She didn’t make the statements out of a sense of entitlement to her customers’ kindness. She only made the video to show people the harsh reality to which hospitality workers are subjected. She waits on hundreds of people all day and night and gets nothing reasonable to take home, outside her tips. She implores people to always tip servers, waiters, and bartenders because the policies have them at the lowest.
In an interview with Bored Panda, Aaliyah said, “It’s tough being a working mom for me right now just because I’m going through a custody battle. I would love to spend time with my son, but I have to make a living so we can have a good life once the custody battle comes to an end.”
Aaliyah’s post was received with mixed feelings because, during that period, she made $708 in tips, which was all hers for the taking. People online argued that those with regular jobs that pay up to $14 per hour wouldn’t even make that much, and here she was complaining about a $2.13 minimum wage.
Aaliyah was quick to defend her post and invalidate that argument. Even if she makes $2000 in tips every day (which she doesn’t), it all depends on the flow of customers, how extra-nice and cheerful she is, and how much of an excellent impression she makes on each person or group. It can be exhausting and no one should have to rely solely on the kindness and generosity of others to be able to feed their kids. Next week, she could make $35 in tips. What would be her reality at that point?
Time for a revision
She said to Bored panda: “Honestly, every time I open a check I just chuckle a little bit. My coworkers and I will compare checks to see who got the least amount and we’ll just laugh because it’s ridiculous how little we get paid. I would just like to add that I love my job and I’m fortunate enough to make enough to get by, but it’s tough to think that if an emergency comes up it could really hurt me financially. I just wish we all had stable and consistent paychecks.”
She added: “It’s important to tip because we literally rely solely on those tips. We’ll be greatly appreciative and it’s just nice to be compassionate and understanding that this is just how laws are set up, and if you’re going to restaurants that do abide by these laws, you are feeding into the broken system. We don’t like relying on the customer but until the laws can get changed, we still need to be paid. Whatever you do, Don’t. Forget. To tip.”
It’s time the government reviewed the “subminimum wage” section of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that puts hospitality workers at the mercy of people’s tips. The regular minimum wage is $7.25 and people are stuck earning $2.13 because they may or may not go home with tips. Every taxpayer deserves an optimal sense of financial security and that arrangement doesn’t set anyone up for safety. Hospitality workers deserve better.
Reactions to Aaliyah’s post:
- “Questions and Answers About the Minimum Wage.” Department of Labor. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
- “Mom Shares A TikTok Of Her $9.28 Paycheck After Working For 70 Hours As A Waitress.” Bored Panda. Lucija Adomaite. Retrieved November 6, 2020.