I worked in a restaurant as a server earning $2.65 and could not afford to eat.
Like many women across the country, I worked as a server at a neighborhood restaurant. During the year the job was fine, I made just enough money to cover my expenses. But when the summer came, even though I was working more hours to make more money, I instead ended up making less. Fewer people visited the restaurant in the summer and my tips became even more inconsistent and unstable. After my six hour shift, I was lucky if I made $25. And "if there's time to lean, there's time to clean," so the majority of my shift was of rolling silverware, cleaning chairs, table bases, cleaning condiment bottles, refrigerators, etc., for a rate of $2.65, the minimum wage for tipped workers in Michigan, a mere 52 cents above the federal wage rate for tipped workers of $2.13, unmoved since 1991.
I couldn't afford to pay my rent or, sometimes, buy food with my meager wages, but I was fortunate to have a personal relationship with my landlord, from whom I was renting a room. I told her my story and she empathized because she had been an underpaid restaurant worker, too. She continued to let me rent the room but didn't ask for rent money until I could find a better job. So for three months she let me live with her rent free AND she fed me. She didn't ask me to pay a late fee, either. If it wasn't for her generosity, I could have easily met a different fate.
Serving positions have potential to bring in lots of money. At some fine dining restaurants in big cities, servers can earn nearly six figures, but the great majority of servers - who are over 70% female - make barely enough to support themselves let alone a family. I support a raise in the minimum wage for tipped workers and working women because anyone working full time should not have to live in poverty or be forced to live off the generosity of others. Working women are worth more than $2.13.