In college, I quickly learned that working at a restaurant is a great way to guarantee you’ll get at least one free (or drastically reduced) meal per shift. I always vied for the Sunday buffet brunch shift because even though I had to show up early on Sunday after a late Saturday night, buffet brunch meant 1) I only had to take drink orders, bring fresh rolls, and bus tables, 2) I could enjoy a huge plate of brunch leftovers once the restaurant was closed, and 3) I could pack a to-go box with rations for my now-husband. During the rest of the week, the long hours on my feet and difficult customers were well worth the 1/2 price dinner and shift drink that came with each night on the floor.
Of course, leave it to politicians to destroy this small but crucial perk. Michigan State Representative Mark Meadows (D-East Lansing) has introduced House Bill 6214, which would tax restaurant employees on meals they receive while working. Let’s be clear here: when I was a server in Alabama, the minimum base pay was $2.13/hour. Yes, servers get tips and depending on where they work, they could be making well over $100 per night in tips alone. But if the restaurant is dead, you go home with a few measly dollars and the knowledge that your weekly paycheck will be enough for a tank of gas and a few staples from the grocery store. I counted on my shift dinner to be my meal of the day–supplemented with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or cheese on crackers.
Now, Representative Meadows wants to take more money from the pockets of restaurant employees. I’ve known some fine “professional” servers who have worked in the food industry for the majority of their lives. These people generally work at high-class establishments and make more than I do in my 9-5. However, the majority of folks working in restaurants aren’t doing it for the big bucks. They are busting ass by night at Chili’s after working their day jobs, they are folks without extensive training or educational opportunities, and they are people with a nice smile and warm demeanor that can hustle a few extra dollars from a table. It’s unfortunate that Representative Meadows now wants to target this population with this terribly greedy plan. More money for the state of Michigan, less for you!
Photo courtesy of bradleyolin.