Picture 1The lefty hand-wringers at N.C. Policy Watch are exorcized over the fact that waiters and waitresses get only a portion of the minimum wage in actual pay.

[L]abor advocates use February 13 (i.e. 2/13) as a means to call attention to the miserly minimum wage earned by restaurant workers: it’s just $2.13 per hour. That’s right: an employer of a tipped employee is only required to pay $2.13 an hour in direct wages if that amount plus the tips received equals at least the federal minimum wage.

They act as if this is a new “injustice,” but I can tell them from experience that this arrangement was extant in 1970 during the brief period when I was a waiter.

I had just gotten out of the Air Force and was attending Augusta College in Augusta, Ga. I applied for a job as a waiter at the Shoney’s restaurant in Daniel Village, which was near my apartment. I was told by the manager, Mike Kalakekis (I have no idea why I remember his name), that I would make 80 cents an hour, half of the then-minimum wage of $1.60.

As Mike explained it, if I couldn’t make an additional 80 cents an hour in tips, the restaurant would make up the difference. But that largesse came with a cost. “If you can’t make 80 cents an hour in tips I’ll fire you for incompetence,” he added.

I was a lefty lib back then and, of course, felt oppressed and exploited by the capitalist owners of Shoney’s, at least at first. I had never been a waiter before, so I had no idea if I could make up that difference. I soon learned, however, that I earned far more than an additional 80 cents per hour in tips because, in all modesty, I was a heck of a waiter. In fact, I earned many multiples of the minimum wage every night.

I noticed that the waitresses (I was the only male waitperson at this particular restaurant) who were lazy or inept at chatting up and schmoozing customers and anticipating their needs hated a system in which their pay was determined by their performance. Those of us who performed well loved it, however. This may have been the first step in my journey to becoming a conservative.

I’m sure most leftists feel that pooling all the tips in one basket and parceling them out equally to all the waiters and waitresses at the end of the shift would be much more “fair.” After all, that’s the very definition of socialism: letting the lazy sponge off the wages of the productive.