My name is Tracy Pease and I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for over 30 years. It’s intergenerational in my family too. My grandmother was a waitress for 50 years until she passed away. She helped open Elias Brothers Big boy. My mother worked in restaurants for over 20 years; from the time she was 16 until 40 she waited tables. My aunt is in her mid 50’s and she’s been waiting tables since she was 17. This is a family matter for me.
I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for over 30 years. I started working at Big Boy when I was 17 years old, in January of 1989 and I’ve worked in bars, worked fine dining, family dining, ethnic restaurants. I’ve worked as a bartender, cocktail waitress, you name it. All in Southeast Michigan.
I support One Fair Wage for so many reasons. First of all, we deserve a fair wage. And also equally important we deserve to be treated with respect.
When I stated waitressing in 1989 I was making $2.52 an hour. In 30 years I’ve received a one dollar raise. One dollar in 30 years. If other industries followed this standard there would be wide spread rioting. But for some reason it’s ok for this to be the standard in the food service industry.
People need to know that tips are not guaranteed. People who come into a restaurant to work are not obliged to tip me, but I am obligated to pay my rent. I am obligated to pay my electric bill, as well. The only thing that guaranteed me is $3.53 an hour, and no one can live on that.
If we have a bad day at work , if we’re under construction or slow because of the weather or if it’s after the holidays when people aren’t eating out, I’m still working during the holidays. No one is obligated to tip you. There is not obligation there.
This is the only industry where an owner or employer can request that the customer pay the difference for the minimum wage. It’s not my job to support a mediocre business. And if you cannot afford to pay servers or employees a livable wage then you know what? You should not be in business.
It’s not the waitresses responsibility to support a mediocre business.
Look, let’s be honest. $12 an hour is not a living wage but at least it’s a start. With $12 an hour, and working 40 hours a week, I know I’ll be bringing home a paycheck of $480 minus taxes plus whatever tips I get. That could be a car payment or DTE payment. At least I’ll be guaranteed that much money and I won’t have to worry too much when today was a rough day and no one came in. Living a life without the stress of wondering how I’m going to pay my bills? That means a lot.
I was working at a Cony Island making $500 a week in tips when they did construction installed a parking lot and because Michigan is a cold weather state and this construction went on for a year, my tips when down from 500 a week to 250 a week. Now how do you live on that? And then you get a check once a week for maybe 40, 50 bucks? Give me a break.
Another thing people may not understand is that at $3.53 an hour you’re also suppose to do side work, but you’re not making tips when you’re cleaning. They’ll tell you if you’re not going to do the side work, we don’t need you, or they will put you in a bad section that doesn’t make any tips.
We were expected to do deep cleaning of the booths. They would give you 3 booths to clean, and we would spend 20 minutes on each one, scrubbing the seats, scraping gum off the underside of the table with a knife. And I’m doing this for $3.53 an hour?
My mother’s sister cleans houses for a living and she will not spend any time in a house for less than $50 for three hours. Everyone agrees that a reasonable wage for someone to clean your house, but you want me to scrape off gum from under a table for $3 an hour? For the opportunity to maybe make a some money?
Those are slave wages. It’s always the same crap too, just a different restaurant. All restaurants are the same damn way. This is how they treat their servers.
And then they speak poorly about the waitresses. I’ve heard them called “garbage” by management. Oh no.
One Fair Wage will put an end to all of this. Because we deserve to be treated like professionals, with dignity. But instead we’re called garbage by the owners after we scrape their tables clean for a few dollars an hour.