Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Columns

June 13, 2014

LEFFLER: 'Tip wage' should be abolished

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Imagine waking up at 4:30 in the morning, taking a shower, making coffee and heading out the door to make it to work for the start of your 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift. 

Imagine doing that every day of the week. Not just Monday through Friday. Every day.

Now imagine getting your paycheck and seeing that you have earned a whopping $119.28 — minus taxes, of course — for your 56 hours of work.

Now imagine where you might live. Nepal? Nigeria? North Korea? Try North Carolina, where the minimum tipped wage is a paltry $2.13 an hour. If you earn tips regularly (more than $30 a month) in the Tar Heel State, your employer can legally pay you $2.13, the federal “minimum tipped wage.” And some do.

Further imagine you’re making your $2.13 a hour, hoping that customers will find it in their hearts to leave a few extra shekels so that you can do something crazy … like buy food to put in your fridge.

One day one customer does. They leave you a lot of extra shekels, in fact. Enough to put food in your fridge (or “on your family,” to quote a favorite Bushism) and pay the phone bill, cable bill, car payment and most of your rent for the month. All from one customer — a one-in-a-million customer who leaves you a whopping $1,000 tip. Your heart skips a beat. You call your friends. You tell the kids you’re getting steak for dinner. You pretty much won the lottery.

Hold on there, mister happy pants. That “lottery ticket” of yours doesn’t do you a lick of good if you can’t cash it. And the one place you can cash that lottery ticket — your place of employment — says they don’t allow big tips like that. At least not on a credit card. So they run the bill without the tip and you get nothing. Except, of course, that $2.13 an hour you worked so hard for.

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