The U.S. service industry has been heavily criticized for its employment practices. Restaurants can get away with paying their servers and bartenders just a few dollars an hour and then rely on customers to tip and top up their pay. That's opposed to simply raising the price of food so that workers can be paid a decent hourly wage, and we can do away with tipping altogether.
Austin, Texas, mother Aaliyah Cortez has been a bartender and server at a local sports bar for a little over a year and knows this practice all too well. She recently decided to create a TikTok to visualize the problem and highlight the importance of tipping by showing a paycheck that totaled $9 for over 70 hours of work.
In the TikTok, Aaliyah shows that she received $150.81 in hourly wages for 70 hours of work, at a rate of $2.13 an hour. But after medicare, taxes and social security, that number was reduced to $9.
While Aaliyah also received around $700 in tips, the reason her hourly is so low is because restaurants need to supplement tips if they do not fully cover the gap between the tipped minimum wage and the regular minimum wage. If that system sounds confusing, it's because it is.
Aaliyah told Buzzfeed that she decided to film the video to show how the service industry works: "There are laws set up that allow tipped employees to be paid under the federal minimum wage, which makes us rely on the customer to pay our wages."
"It’s not right that we have to do this, but I wanted to shed some light on the issue and inform the public about the importance of tipping. If I had a good two weeks from tips my check will be on the lower side. At my last restaurant, my checks would come out to be $0."
While Aaliyah stressed that she liked her job and she is fortunate to get good tips, she'd prefer a system that wasn't so dependent on tips.
"I just wish we were all being paid adequately and consistently. As you can see – by my check – I cannot afford to live off of $2.13 an hour, so I solely rely on the generosity of my customers."
Aaliyah's video has sparked quite the conversation online, especially on Twitter where it was shared by user @sxbvna.
"This is all sad and i blame employers," one user wrote. "But again, stop forcing 'tipping' on us."
this is all sad and i blame employers. but again, stop forcing “tipping” on us.— Bébé (@ItsSaabyra) February 11, 2020
While another added: "It’s the customer’s choice to tip. Tipping is a privilege not a necessity."