Valentine's Day & raising the wage for tipped workers

Valentine's Day is the biggest night of the year for restaurants. Couples make reservations months in advance and chefs create menus especially for the most romantic night of the year. All that consumer love spells big profits for eateries. In fact, even during the recession, the restaurant business grew bigger and faster than any other industry. Unfortunately, many restaurant chains aren't sharing the love with their 10 million employees, who are among the lowest paid workers in the country.  Sure, a few waiters at really high end restaurants make big bucks, but most don't and even waiters at expensive restaurants can't always count on any regular income.  Low wages in the restaurant industry especially impacts people of color.  In fact, over 50% of tipped workers and restaurant workers with incomes below the poverty line are people of color, and 70% of restaurant tipped workers are women.  
 
Right now, many of these women of color putting food on tables at restaurants, can't afford to feed their own families. Servers use foods stamps at double the rate of other workers. Children who live below the poverty line are more likely to lack proper nutrition and develop diabetes and other heart diseases that can disrupt and even shorten their lives.
 
Moreover, the vast majority of restaurant workers also lack paid sick days, which puts the health of the public at risk when food workers have to work when they are sick.  Fair pay and paid sick days are critical for the health of our children and the health of the nation.
 
Our food workers deserve better.  This week, President Obama raised the minimum wage of Federal employees to $10.10 from 7.25.  We need Congress to do the same for all other workers.  The Fair Minimum Wage Act bill introduced in Congress by Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller would raise the federal minimum wage for workers in private industry, with tipped workers receiving 70% of the proposed $10.10, their first raise in 23 years. This change alone would lift over 700,000 people of color out of poverty, including 250,000 children.
 
And raising the minimum wage is not only good for low wage workers, it’s also good for our economy.  Study after study shows that raising the minimum wage has a positive ripple effect as these wages are spent in local stores, in our communities, and fueling our economy.

Living off of a sub-minimum wages isn't living. Let's not only show some love to the people that serve us on our special night out by tipping generously, but let's also raise the minimum wage.
 
Monifa Bandele is a Senior Campaign Director for MomsRising.