It’s true that some restaurant servers, particularly at high-end eateries, do pretty well on tips added to minimal wages. But several Triangle restaurants are stepping up and raising pay to $12.33 per hour from the $7.25-an-hour federal minimum wage and the $2.13 an hour for tipped employees.
This is part of a national trend, a refreshing one, with Target and Wal-Mart deciding to pay employees more than the federal minimum. It is a recognition that the minimum wage is not really a living wage.
Unfortunately, while some of these employers recognize that fact, the Republicans in charge of many state legislatures, including North Carolina’s, do not. GOP leaders in this state have no interest in boosting the minimum wage.
In Durham, the Durham Living Wage Project is a campaign set up by the advocacy group the People’s Alliance. It will certify those restaurants and businesses that pay $12.33 an hour in 2015 or $10.83 at businesses that provide health insurance. The hope is that the public will patronize such businesses in appreciation for what they do for workers.
Fewer than 800 workers were covered by the project as of a News & Observer report this week. But Elizabeth Poindexter, who works with the living wage project, notes that Durham seemed a good place to begin the effort, because of the astounding number of restaurants that have been born and continue to thrive in the Bull City. Some servers might question the surrender of tips, but restaurant managers say a higher-wage system encourages more teamwork and perhaps improves atmosphere.
Symbolically, though, there’s no question that the project is hitting a nerve. Minimum wages are often the bare minimum, and not enough, certainly, for a single parent to support a child, for example. This is a small but noble effort to recognize that reality, to build a stronger workforce, and to start a good trend.