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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

Google set to release new AI-operated meeting room kit… and it’s pretty baller

(TECH NEWS) Google’s newest toy is designed to “put people first” by alleviating video and audio issues for conference room meetings.

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Google Meet Series One is a new meeting kit that puts people first.

Remote meetings can be the worst sometimes. The awful video and audio quality are frustrating when you’re trying to hear important details for an upcoming project. Even with the fastest internet connection, this doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to clearly hear or see anyone who’s in the office. But Google is re-imagining conference rooms with their new video conferencing hardware.

Yesterday, the company introduced Google Meet Series One. In partnership with Lenovo, this meeting room kit is made exclusively for Google Meet and is poised to be the hardware that “puts people first.”

The Series One has several components that make it stand out. First is the “Smart Audio Bar,” powered by eight beam-forming microphones. Using Google Edge TPUs, the soundbar can deliver TrueVoice®, the company’s “proprietary, multi-channel noise cancellation technology.” It removes distracting sounds, like annoying finger and foot-tapping noises, so everyone’s voices are crystal clear from anywhere in the room.

The hardware also has 4K smart cameras that allow for high-resolution video and digital PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) effects. Processed with Google AI, the device knows to automatically zoom in and out so all of the meetings’ participants are framed in the camera. With an i7 processor and Google Edge TPUs, the system is built to “handle the taxing demands of video conferencing along with running the latest in Google AI as efficiently and reliably as possible.”

The meeting kit has Google grade security built-in, so the system automatically updates over-the-air. The system also works seamlessly with Google services and apps we already use. Its touch control display is powered by a single ethernet cable. From the admin controls, you can manage meeting lists and control room settings. Powered by assistant voice commands, their touch controller provides a “touchless touchability”; if you want to, you can join a meeting just by saying, “Hey Google, join the meeting.”

These new meeting kits are easy to install and are versatile. They can be configured to fit small, medium, and large-sized rooms. “Expanding kits for larger rooms can be done with just an ethernet cable and the tappable Mic Pod, which expands microphone reach and allows for mute/unmute control.”

According to the Google Meet Series One introductory video, the meeting room kits are “beautifully and thoughtfully designed to make video meetings approachable and immersive so everyone gets a seat at the table.”

Currently, there is no release date set for Google Meet Series One. However, pre-orders will soon be available in the US, Canada, Finland, France, Norway, Spain, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium.

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Tech News

One creepy way law enforcement might have your private data

(TECH NEWS) Wait, geofences do what? Law enforcement can pull your private data if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Man walking on crosswalk with phone, but his private data could be vulnerable.

By now, it’s pretty common knowledge that our smartphones are tracking us, but what you might not be aware of is just how much law enforcement is taking advantage of our private data. Now, the good news is that some places have gotten wise to this breach of privacy and are banning certain tactics. The bad news is: If you were ever in the vicinity of a recent crime scene, it’s quite possible your privacy has already been invaded.

How are law enforcement doing this? Well, it starts with a geofence.

At its core, a geofence is a virtual border around a real geographic location. This can serve many purposes, from creating marketing opportunities for targeted ads to tracking shipping packages. In the case of law enforcement, though, geofences are often used in something called a geofence warrant.

Traditionally, warrants identify a subject first, then retrieve their electronic records. A geofence warrant, on the other hand, identifies a time and place and pulls electronic data from that area. If you’re thinking “hey, that sounds sketchy,” you are–forgive the pun–completely warranted.

With a geofence, law enforcement can dig through your private data, not because they have proof you were involved in a crime, but because you happened to be nearby.

This practice, though relatively new, is on the rise: Google reported a 15-fold increase in geofence warrant requests between 2017 and 2018. As well as invading privacy, these warrants have led to false arrests and can be used against peaceful protesters. Not to mention, in many cases, geofence warrants can be extremely easy to acquire. One report in Minnesota found judges signed off on these cases in under 4 minutes.

Thankfully, there have been signs of people pushing back against the use of geofence warrants. In fact, there have been multiple federal court rulings that find the practice in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” including your electronic data.

If you’re still worried about your privacy, there are ways to keep your electronic data on lock. For example, turn off your location services when you’re traveling, and avoid connecting to open Wi-Fi networks. You can also work to limit location sharing with apps and websites.

These and other tips can be a great way to help you avoid not just geofence warrants, but others who want to use your electronic information for their own gain.

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Tech News

Incoming! Amazon drones will be dropping off packages soon (we hope)

(TECH NEWS) The Federal Aviation Administration has approved Amazon for drone delivery service, but when will the drones actually take flight?

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One of Prime Air's drones ready for test flights.

Amazon has finally received the stamp of approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to deliver packages by drones. This pivotal step brings the online retailer closer to their promise of delivering packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.

In 2013, during CBS’s “60 Minutes” interview, Amazon CEO and Founder, Jeff Bezos, said drones would be delivering customers’ packages within five years. Although the estimate is a couple of years off, it seems like that day might be right around the corner.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when little floating presents are sailing through the sky (Animal Crossing balloons, anyone?). Despite our excitement to see our latest Amazon impulse purchase land on our doorstep, it isn’t going to happen overnight.

The Part 135 Air Carrier Certificate Amazon obtained for its fleet of Prime Air drones will allow the company to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) “to carry the property of another for compensation beyond visual line of sight.” Although the FAA certification is allowing Amazon to begin test trials, Bloomberg reports that the retail giant still has “regulatory and technical hurdles” to overcome.

In addition, the FAA has yet to set regulations that will “serve as a framework to expand drone flights over crowds, a building block necessary for deliveries.” Amazon hasn’t said when and where it will start testing the delivery service either.

David Carbon, Amazon Vice President who oversees Prime Air, made this statement: “This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world.”

This approval is definitely a step forward, but Amazon has been working on the drone delivery service for years. Early last year, the giant retailer revealed they would start offering one-day shipping. They have followed through on this, at least. And during a Las Vegas Conference in June 2019, they revealed their “fully electric drones that can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes.” But it still doesn’t answer when we can expect to see whizzing drones overhead.

I’m not sure when Amazon will fulfill their last promise. But it is getting closer. What I do know is that I look forward to the Amazon drones taking flight. I can’t wait to place my orders knowing that I will get that last-minute present I ordered just in time.

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