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Should the Minimum Wage be Raised for Food Servers? [POLL]

Kevork Djansezian Collection: Getty Images News
Kevork Djansezian Collection: Getty Images News

To Insure Proper Service – aka Tips. That’s what restaurant servers and bar staff survive on. That plus the meager 2.13 an hour minimum wage they make on top of that.

Do you think it’s enough, or should the state impose a higher minimum wage for restaurant workers – just as the state did through referendum raising the overall minimum wage from 7.25 to 8.25 an hour?
Obviously depends on which side of the argument you’re on.

Many waiters and waitresses will tell you that it’s not enough – that there are times when their take home pay doesn’t even come close to covering bare necessities. Or, in some cases, they wind up owing the restaurant money.

On the other hand, restaurant owners and managers will tell you that raising the minimum wage will put a crimp in hiring and cut into their already low profit margin?

According to this:

New Jersey lawmakers should expand the state’s minimum wage to include workers in the restaurant industry who, if they are eligible for tips, make $2.13 an hour, an advocacy group said Wednesday.
Wider Opportunities for Women called for the change after releasing a study that found nine out of 10 restaurant servers at the Shore don’t make enough to pay for their basic needs.

“It’s a constant struggle being a restaurant worker,” said Anastasia Braucht, 35, of Brick, a bartender who described the vicious cycle of low-paying seasonal jobs. She makes decent money during the summer but uses much of it to pay off bills from the winter.

Advocacy groups are trying to call attention to the plight of restaurant workers – bartenders, wait staff, dishwashers – who were left behind on Jan. 1, when New Jersey’s minimum wage rose to $8.25 an hour from $7.25 an hour.

A trade group balked at expanding the minimum wage. Restaurants already operate on low profit margins. Hiring would only slow down if their owners had to increase pay, provide health insurance and offer paid leave, one official said.

“It’s just going to end up costing jobs,” said Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant Association.

There were 270,200 food service workers statewide in 2010, and that number is projected to grow 0.9 percent by 2020, slightly faster than overall employment, according to the study.

The median wage in New Jersey for servers was $20,150, according to the study. By comparison, an unmarried worker with no children living in Monmouth County needs $42,672 to make ends meet.
“A job that is growing is not providing economic security for the workers and their families,” said Mary Gatta, co-author of the study.

Waiters, waitresses, and bar staff all deserve to make a livable wage. And if they’re proficient at what they do, I’m sure their employers pay them according to their ability. It makes good business sense to hold onto reliable and friendly wait staff. That’s why restaurants should be left to making that decision – not the state.

With the plethora of restaurants dotting the Jersey landscape, I think the market should decide what a fair hourly wage would be.

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