Wednesday, February 29, 2012

a) LEAP 2012. b) Supporting Food Industry Staff

It's a once-in-4-years-date today. Searching around for something of interest, I noticed an online commenter wondering whether there has ever been a set of twins born very close to midnight at either end of a leap-day, one just before midnight, one just after. If such twins exist one will have a birthday each year, the other, though no doubt used to celebrating annually with their twin, will have a true calendrical birthday only every 4 years.

Astrologically, though, leap years are inconsequential. People born on 29th February are no different from anyone else, they have a natal chart which describes the position of Sun, Moon and planets at the exact time they came into the world. The Sun will return to the same position it was at their time of birth once every year, leap year or not, so leap year babies do have an astrological birthday every year, it will be shown on the calendar as either 28th February or 1 March.

On a different topic entirely, and quite unrelated to astrology, a word or two about an injustice in the USA which goes on, unchecked practically right under our noses.

I've noticed during the past few days articles and threads of enlightening comments about the conditions under which restaurant and fast-food outlet staff are expected to work. That Oscar-nominated movie The Help reminded us of a terrible injustice which happened decades ago; today's version of what went on in The Help, though somewhat milder, is still injustice.

See, for instance:
Is Your Local Restaurant Relying on Exploited Women's Labor?
Restaurant workers Show Up Sick
When I lived in the UK (most of my life) it was common knowledge over there that British tourists to the US were always overjoyed to find that eating out was so cheap - far cheaper than in the UK. I now realise why that is!

A snip from the first of the above links, the article is by Michelle Chen:
Federal law makes the labor of tipped workers especially cheap (assuming that tips will make up the difference): a subminimum wage of just $2.13 compared to the standard $7.25 for other sectors. And of restaurant workers who rely on tips, most are women, concentrated in jobs like serving and tending the counter.

The lower-wage tier for restaurant work reflects a legacy of discrimination in labor regulation. Historically, sectors relying heavily on women and people of color, such as domestic work and farm work, have been excluded from critical labor protections.
But the inequity restaurant workers face isn’t just a bread-and-butter issue of wages. A national survey of several thousand restaurant workers found that:
90 percent lack paid sick days and 90 percent do not receive health insurance through their employers. One third of all female restaurant workers … lack any kind of health care, whether provided by their employer or otherwise.

Families suffer when parents can’t afford to take a day off to care for an ill child. And when sick food-service employees drag themselves to work, everyone is at risk. A majority of restaurant workers reported “going to work and cooking, preparing, or serving food while sick,” according to ROC’s study–a startling 70 percent among women. Imagine a bout of the flu in a hot, crowded kitchen, and how many hands touched your salad on its way to the table.

Those thoughts could easily put me off eating out ever again, but it wouldn't help struggling food industry staff and their families. What's needed is for well-regarded politicians and Union leaders to start fighting for better pay and improved conditions for these massively under-appreciated workers. Cost of eating out would necessarily go up, but so be it. Do we wish to enjoy ourselves at the expense of those who help us to do so?

All we can continue to do, for now, is to show appreciation by adding a decent level of tip, at least 15%, to the meal's cost, considering it to be a part of the fair price of the food and service we have received.


anyjazz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anyjazz said...

I don’t think our politicians and the IRS realized how big the tiger was when they opened the cage. The government was miffed at the “vast” workforce being paid “under the table” in the form of tips and gratuities. Though they were aware of it earlier, the ancient tradition of rewarding good service came under close scrutiny sometime in the late ‘50’s or early 60’s in the US. Laws were fashioned to prevent this sort of untaxed income and establish programs that would align it with minimum wage laws and make it accountable for taxing purposes.

So instead of closing tax deduction loop holes regularly used by corporations to avoid paying taxes, (yes, they were doing it back then too) they went after that “huge” volume of income service sector workers used to make ends meet.

I wonder if that instead of calling his form of income “tips and gratuities” they might be called “donations and offerings” instead. They aren’t taxable, right?

But ingenuity prevails and businesses have found ways to use the new regulations to their advantage by pooling tips or lowering minimum wage to a formulated average that includes the expected tips range. Or something like that.

So the service worker must work sick and double shifts to cover their living costs and pay taxes on their gratuity income. Some corporations on the other hand, pay little taxes or sometimes, none at all.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~~~ Thanks for this extra background information, aj.

One way or another the pattern seldom varies from decade to decade, century to century. Those least able to fight back get clobbered.....until....until....

Rossa said...

I have an uneasy memory of this from my holiday in Florida in 1989. My sister and I were eating in a restaurant the night before we were due to leave the US. The food was good but the service wasn't. We decided not to leave a tip but then found that the waiter pursued us down the street demanding that we pay something for his 'work'.

Both of us had worked as waiting staff in the late 70s so we sympathised with his argument but in the UK we had felt our tips were a bonus, not a wage. So I have to admit we didn't recompense him in the way he wanted. We got a torrent of abuse in return and I have to say it made me a lot more cautious on my other trips to the US.

It is the expectation caused by the below minimum wage that is hard to argue against. From a customer's point of view why is it my responsibility to make up the shortfall caused by the employer? Bad service doesn't deserve reward and while I may abstain in the UK, I would think twice in the US now.

Twilight said...

Rossa ~~ Many thanks for illustrating the problem from personal experience.

It does seem as though restaurant owners are saying "We'll provide the venue and food - let the public cough up the bulk of the staff's pay." They escape all responsibility for allowing sick days or contribution to health care - it's a racket - and not only terribly unjust to the staff, but can become a health hazard to customers.