My experience as a Detroit server
Re: The Detroit News' June 7 editorial, "One Fair Wage isn’t fair to staff": Long days, aching feet, treated with disrespect, lost pay and even homelessness -- that is my life as a server. I work at a Coney Island in Detroit earning a base pay of $4 an hour, my reality as a woman working with clientele who make less than a living wage is significantly different than a person who works in a more upscale establishment. Our stories are too often overlooked when public policy is discussed.
While the focus of the debate around wages and income inequality is focused on the minimum wage, the sub-minimum wage that many servers make doesn’t get the attention it deserves. As a tipped employee, I know first-hand that the current system does not work. The rules say that my employer must make certain that I earn the minimum wage but this doesn’t always happen and leaves me without enough money to support my family.
I am a single mother, raising three children, who wakes up each morning doing what any mother does. I do my best to provide for my family. To make ends meet, I work multiple jobs, on my feet all day. But at times it hasn’t been enough. That’s why I support raising the minimum wage and ending the unfair sub-minimum wage.
This is an issue that is being fixed across the country. Already seven states have eliminated the unfair and complex sub-minimum wage. These seven states also report a flourishing restaurant industry after making the change.
While there are some servers who make a comfortable living, the reality for most workers is far from the images of Tom Cruise mixing drinks in the movie Cocktail.
Nearly 80 percent of Michigan’s tipped workers are women and the sub-minimum wage only serves to perpetuate the gender pay gap. In addition, despite only 7 percent of American women making up in the workforce in the restaurant industry, they are responsible for reporting 37 percent of all sexual harassment claims to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For women like me, this is an equality issue as well.
I hope we, as a state, can see that not all server jobs are equal, but are all important and each worker should be treated equally.
Chanelle Clark, Detroit
Don't resort to scare tactics
Rep. John Reilly has reached a new level of scare tactics meant to strike fear in low-wage workers seeking to better their lives ("Don't outlaw Michigan jobs," June 5). His opinion piece fails to recognize the fact that in states where the minimum wage has increased, unemployment has gone down.
Study after study shows raising the minimum wage has positive effects for workers and the economy as a whole. Beyond the studies, the real lives of workers who cook our food, ensure our children cross streets safely, care for our loved ones and clean our hotel rooms show the current minimum wage is not a living wage.
Reilly also forgets Michigan’s recent history. In 2014, Michigan’s minimum wage was increased with an increase taking place each year since. Since then, unemployment has dropped in Michigan -- exactly the opposite of what Reilly says would have happened.
The One Fair Wage ballot measure would raise the minimum wage for all workers and put money in the pockets of working people across our state who will support our local small businesses.
Dr. Alicia Farris, chair
Michigan One Fair Wage Committee