Each year, employers get away with treating their workers like slaves. Yes, I am talking about employers in the United States, not India. The metro Detroit restaurant industry gets away with paying salaries that only allows around 13 percent of their employees to make enough money to live. For a single parent to raise just one child, the estimated cost of living per year is $36,447 for Wayne County, yet on average restaurant workers earn $15,092 a year.
With more than 80,000 food-serving establishments in the United States, the annual sales of this industry are over $630 billion, with a profit margin of 4.4 percent. Michigan alone makes around $12 billion in restaurant sales each year. To say that these employers do not have the money to pay better wages is inexcusable.
One in ten Americans currently work in the restaurant industry. It has one of the highest employment rates of any private-sector industry. Almost 400,000 Michiganders work in this industry. These people are bound to be our parents, siblings, family members or close friends. We do not want to see the people we love work full-time only to still struggle to pay their mortgage. Improvement is necessary.
The Wages Act and Healthy Families Act have recently been introduced in Congress and are focused on improving this industry. The Wages Act will mandate an increase in tipped employees’ minimum wage from a menial $2.13 per hour to nearly $5 per hour hour. Considering a normal full-time work week is about 40 hours, this extra few dollars an hour could increase an employees’ yearly salary by almost $6,000 a year. That is a significant step in the right direction.
If enacted, the Healthy Families Act would require that restaurants with 15 or more employees grant them each at least seven paid sick days per year. Almost every other job position in the private sector grants a certain number of paid sick days. In Michigan, only 13 percent of restaurants do this. This would not only help workers, but patrons to these establishments as well. Who knows what ill employee will touch your food because they were so desperate for money that they came to work anyway? It’s a health risk to allow this kind of employee treatment.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but if both bills pass the industry would become significantly more humane. Both bills have yet to be voted on in the House of Representatives. Be an advocate and speak out to your representatives in Congress. Or even write a letter.
In the meantime, stick it to the industry and show them you will not ignore their injustice. Support restaurants that are loyal to their workers. A few places in Detroit, Michigan that have been recognized for paying over required minimum wage and granting paid sick days are: Avalon Bakery, Colors, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Le Petit Zinc, Russell Street Deli, Slow’s BBQ, and Wolfgang Puck’s Grille.
Paige Taliaferro is an LSA freshman.