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How the push for minimum wage is leaving behind tipped workers

(FINANCE NEWS) It makes sense that as the cost of living increases, the minimum wage would rise to reflect that. So why has tipped worker wage been the same since 1996?

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Real world hustle

Many a professional has entered the work force through a customer service-based position. Some stick with the position(s) for a little bit, gather a few retail or restaurant horror stories, and move on to other opportunities. Some folks thrive on the often fast-paced environment and make a career of it. Regardless, it is safe to say that when starting out on this career path, the job seeker will likely be making somewhere around minimum wage. However, one of the primary reasons job seekers are drawn to restaurants is the opportunity to make some extra cash in tips.

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The rise of the wage

Since 2009, the federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 per hour, though the rate is higher in many states. Recently, efforts have gained traction in once again raising the federal minimum wage. States such as California and New York have set legislation to raise the minimum wage to as high as $15 per hour by 2020, and Massachusetts and Washington are currently tied for having the highest minimum wage at $11 per hour. It makes sense that as the cost of living increases, the minimum wage would rise to reflect that.

Would you believe, then, that since 1996 the minimum wage for tipped workers has been set at $2.13 per hour?

Crunching the numbers

In case you’re too lazy to do the math, I’ve taken the initiative to present you with some figures. (And if you’re insecure about your mathematical skills, then let me assure you that I had to use a calculator). The federal minimum for tipped workers is $5.12 per hour less than untipped workers. Working 40 hours per week, untipped workers making minimum wage would make roughly $15,000 annually.

Tipped workers, based on hourly wages alone, would make less than $4,500 annually.

I mean, maybe it’s just me, but that seems a little unbalanced now, doesn’t it?

A hard day’s work

Now, in all fairness, these figures are purely based on hourly wages. At high-end establishments, especially, the tips can be quite good and more than make up for the significant wage gap.

But at less-expensive establishments, that wage gap can most assuredly be felt among the workers. If the establishment isn’t busy, or even if too many parties forget or decline to leave a tip, servers could potentially be walking away from an 8-hour workday having barely made $20.

If too many parties forget or decline to leave a tip, servers could potentially be walking away from an 8-hour workday having barely made $20.Click To Tweet

This example may be a bit extreme, but it is certainly within the realm of plausibility.

Who’s in the fight?

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United launched a campaign in 2013 to bring about legislation that would abandon the two-tiered wage system. Currently, there are only seven states that have such legislation in place, with Maine voting to become the eighth last year. Though the group is currently planning a major push in several states to move legislation this month, activists are worried progress may face major challenges over the next four years, largely due to President Trump’s nomination of Andrew Puzder as Labor Secretary.

Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants – parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.- has been an outspoken critic of raising the minimum wage.

The group also faces strong opposition in the National Restaurant Association, whose shared initials with another, often vilified association we will not discuss.

The opposition

The National Restaurant Association argues that an increase in wages would lead to an increase in food prices, directly leading to a decrease in both jobs and tips. They also argue that tipped workers are already among the highest paid workers in restaurants, so an increase in wages would be unnecessary. This line of thinking, of course, fails to include the idea that the amount servers are tipped are often enough based upon things that are out of their control.

You know, things like sex, race, age, physical attractiveness, etc.

It’s about to get real

In closing, there is an argument to be made for and against a two-tiered minimum wage. Certainly, there are many servers throughout the country getting paid an hourly rate that is significantly less than that of untipped minimum wage, and thriving due to high-tipping patrons. However, there are just as many workers, if not more, that are struggling to make ends meet at $2.13 per hour, plus a couple bucks in tips.

The restaurant industry has changed significantly over the past 20 years. Shouldn’t wages have as well?

#MinimumWage

Andrew Clausen is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and when he's not deep diving into technology and business news for you, he is a poet, enjoys rock climbing, monster movies, and spending time with his notoriously naughty cat.

Tech News

Tired of transcribing screenshots? Put this Chrome extension to work

(TECH NEWS) This new Chrome extension takes out the tedium of transcribing all your necessary screenshots into your writing and does it for you.

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Logo for Docsumo, a transcribing Google Chrome extension

My favorite part of being a writer is getting to interview people from various walks of life. My least favorite part of being a writer is transcribing those interviews.

Slightly easier, but still annoying, is transcribing information from a screenshot, photo file or PDF. Sometimes you have to get this information in a rush and retyping all of it slows you down.

Docsumo is making that process into a breeze. The tool allows for users to grab text from a screenshot for easy copy and paste.

So how does it work? First, it has to be downloaded as a Google Chrome extension. Once it’s part of the browser’s extension, it can be put to work.

A video on Docsumo’s website demonstrates the easy transcribing process. The developer does a Google image search for a shipping label as they need to quickly copy and paste an address. When the necessary label pops up, they click the Docsumo tool that allows them to drag and select the part of the label they want to transcribe (the movement of the mouse is similar to taking a screenshot on a Mac computer).

Then, the text that they’ve highlighted is transcribed into a box where it can be copied and pasted. Simple!

In addition to copy and paste, users can extract, edit, and share data. After that, all of the related information is removed from Docsumo’s server. Examples of when this tool is useful include: Invoices, bank statements, insurance documents, bills, and tax forms.

The tool is made possible through Optimal Character Recognition (OCR) which, according to Ducsumo’s developers, is something that comes in handy in many situations.

“Organizations often receive crucial information and data in image form of documents. These images can be a photo of a document, scanned document, a scene-photo, or subtitle text superimposed on an image. The real challenge for the operation team is to be able to extract information and data from these photos. It can take hours to manually pull out this data and assemble it in a structured way for record-keeping and processing. This process is hugely error-prone too.

OCR technology comes to rescue in this situation.

Optical character recognition or optical character reader (OCR) is the electronic or mechanical conversion of images of typed, handwritten or printed text into machine-encoded text. This technology is suitable for photos of text-heavy documents and printed paper data records such as passports, invoices, bank statements, receipts, business cards, and identity verification documents. OCR technology is the way of digitizing printed texts so that they can be electronically edited, searched, and stored more compactly.”

In a world where pen-to-paper has slowly been fading away, Docsumo is here to give it another push further away.

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Tech News

Scoring productivity: Is this Microsoft tool creepy or helpful?

(TECH NEWS) Microsoft launched a new tool that helps monitor user data, but it’s not a work monitoring tool – it’s trying to judge productivity.

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Black and white data screens monitoring productivity.

Just recently into the work from home movement, Microsoft launched their new tool, “Productivity Score”. According to Microsoft, this tool helps organizations understand how well they are functioning, how technology affects their productivity, and how they can get the most out of their Microsoft 365 purchase.

But to do all of this, the tool will keep track of how each employee is using Microsoft products. For instance, the tool will monitor how often video or screen sharing is enabled during meetings by employees.

It will keep a metric of how employees are communicating. It will show if employees are sending out emails through Outlook, sending out messages through Teams, or posting on Yammer. It will also keep track of which Microsoft tools are being used more and on which platforms.

So, Microsoft’s new tool is a scary work surveillance tool, right? According to Microsoft, it isn’t. In a blog post, Microsoft 365’s corporate Vice President Jared Spataro said, “Productivity Score is not a work monitoring tool. Productivity Score is about discovering new ways of working, providing your people with great collaboration, and technology experiences.”

Spataro says the tool “focuses on actionable insights” so people and teams can use Office 365 tools to be more productive, collaborative, and help make work improvements. And, while this all sounds good, privacy advocates aren’t too thrilled about this.

Microsoft says it is “committed to privacy as a fundamental element of Productivity Score.” To maintain privacy and trust, the tool does aggregate user data over a 28-day period. And, there are controls to anonymize user information, or completely remove it. However, by default individual-level monitoring is always on, and only admins can make any of these changes. Employees can’t do anything about securing their privacy.

So, user data privacy is still a large issue on the table, but privacy advocates can breathe a sigh of relief. Yesterday, they got a response from Microsoft they can smile about. In another blog post, Spataro responded to the controversy. “No one in the organization will be able to use Productivity Score to access data about how an individual user is using apps and services in Microsoft 365,” he said.

Although Productivity Score will still aggregate data over a 28-day period, it will not do so from an individual employee level. It will do it from an organizational one as a whole. Also, the company is making it clearer that the tool is a “measure of organizational adoption of technology—and not individual user behavior.”

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Tech News

Don’t want FB getting access to your texts? Try out Signal instead

(TECH NEWS) Elon Musk tells Twitter followers to “Use Signal” after WhatsApp announces new Facebook data-sharing policy.

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Signal app product display on two mockup phones, set on a blue background.

With just a two-word tweet, Elon Musk popularized messaging app, Signal at the beginning of this year. “Use Signal,” the tech mogul tweeted on January 7. Musk urged his followers to start using Signal because of WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy announcement, which raised concerns among people.

On January 6, WhatsApp users received an in-app alert informing them about the company’s updated data-sharing policy. The message asked users to accept the new terms and conditions where they gave WhatsApp consent to share their information with Facebook. The updated policy would be effective starting on February 8, and users who didn’t agree to the changes would no longer be able to use the app.

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy reads, “As part of the Facebook family of companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, this family of companies. We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings.”

The policy verbiage is concerning, but this isn’t the first time WhatsApp has shared some sort of data with Facebook. The company has been sharing data with Facebook since 2016. Back then, the companies announced sharing data would help “improve your Facebook ads and products experiences.”

But, Facebook’s data privacy practices are ones that have been controversial over the years and don’t garner much trust. Musk is recommending people to start using Signal because it offers two key things.

The app offers end-to-end encryption on ALL messages. It protects all text, video, audio, and photo messages, which can only be read by the sender and recipient. If a message is intercepted by anyone else, all they will get is gibberish.

Also, other than your phone number, the free app does not store or collect any other user data. The company is a nonprofit and relies on grants and donations to support development. It isn’t owned by any tech companies and doesn’t have any ads.

“The smallest of events helped trigger the largest of outcomes,” the app’s Executive chairman Brian Acton said in an interview with TechCrunch. “We’re also excited that we are having conversations about online privacy and digital safety and people are turning to Signal as the answer to those questions.”

In a Tweet, the company posted screenshots of app installs jumping from 10 million to 50 million. With Musk’s tweet skyrocketing Signal’s downloads, Acton does have a very good reason to be “excited”.

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