Fair Wages for Wait Staff in Restaurants

What would the end of the two-tiered wage system mean for businesses and workers?

Detroit Today Host Stephen Henderson discusses the pros and cons of abolishing the two-tier wage system with the Director of Michigan’s Restaurant Opportunities Center United Alicia Farris and the Vice President of Government Affairs for the Michigan Restaurant Association Justin Winslow.

The current system in Michigan pays a staggered wage to restaurant workers: servers and tip based employees earn $3.10 plus tips while other employees are paid the regular minimum wage of $8.15 an hour. Read some of their arguments below and click the audio link above to hear the entire conversation.

  • POV: Abolish the tipped wage, not tips. Farris’ organization is advocating abolishing the tipped wage, not the actual tips. She says raising the wage wouldn’t eliminate tipping despite some fears that paying servers minimum wage would impact their overall incomes. She explains many of her groups members are becoming more educated about the restaurant industry as a whole and they feel the system is unfair.
  • POV: Abolishing tipped wage wil reduce earnings in long-run. Winslow expressed a different opinion. He feels that paying full wages would end up discouraging tipping and in the long run the money wouldn’t add up to the amount servers earned before the change. Winslow also notes that by law restaurants are required to make up the difference if a server does not earn what he or she would on minimum wage through their tips.
  • Callers weigh in. Callers provided a variety of views on the subject. One caller said that as a server, she feels like her role is to guide patrons through their meal and feels that tips are acknowledging her good service. Another caller compared the $3.10 plus tips system to professional athletes and their endorsements. He says if athletes were paid in a similar system in which their endorsements made up the larger part of their income, it wouldn’t be accepted.

Click the audio link above to hear the full story.