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How the Restaurant Industry Viciously Exploits Its Workers

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For labor organizers working within the restaurant industry, there’s another NRA: the National Restaurant Association. This NRA “represent[s] and advocate[s] on behalf of more than 500,000 restaurant businesses,” including some of the biggest chains in the country. For decades, this has meant keeping tipped workers earning a minimum of $2.13 an hour in 43 states (in California, where I live, tipped workers must earn at least the state-wide minimum wage of $12.00 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees and $13.00 per hour for employers with more than 25 employees). During the COVID-19 pandemic, when many restaurant and cafe workers are realizing that they are much better off financially leaving their jobs and collecting unemployment insurance, there’s a renewed focus on how service work is systemically devalued in the U.S.

The so-called logic behind this $2.13 tipped worker minimum wage is that tips will meet or exceed the federal minimum wage of $7.25 and, legally speaking, when they don’t, employers must make up the difference. According to many employees in the industry, in practice, the latter almost never happens—the restaurant industry specifically is notorious for wage and tip theft. Throughout the U.S.—excluding West Coast states, Nevada, Montana, Minnesota, and Alaska—if tips aren’t good or are nonexistent, good luck making rent.

In director Abby Ginzberg’s documentary Waging Change, streamable on Women Make Movies from May 22 to May 31, the NRA’s machinations to keep the tipped minimum wage at $2.13 an hour in as many states as possible is exposed for its strategic seediness. In a “Save Our Tips” campaign, the NRA funded an astroturf movement........

© The Daily Beast