Suchritha Patlola | Guest Writer
When I landed my first job at the Cheesecake Factory, I thought resisting my cheesy nemesis would be my greatest dilemma. I soon realized The NRA would. Not that NRA, the other NRA: The National Restaurant Association. Because of them, the hourly wage for a New Jersey service worker and seven other states is $2.13. One incident show-cased the devastating impacts of an inadequate subminimum wage.
A woman sat down at a booth and spread out twenty one-dollar bills. Every time she was disappointed by the food quality or song playing she shot me icy glares and removed a bill from the table. By the end of the hour, she left me one dollar on a fifty-five dollar tab. What she failed to realize is that, as a server, my salary is tip-based.
If we try to cite the law or ask for fair compensation, we’re threatened with arduous legal battles—or worse, unemployment. Although we earned far less than eight dollars per hour, managers would report that we received the state wage. The inequities we faced go beyond the Cheesecake Factory to the 800,000 service workers in New Jersey, yet no laws even began to address them.
To better grasp the law-making process, I began interning at Senator Robert Menendez’s office. Constituent testimonies piqued my interest in a range of domestic issues, but my passion for fighting archaic minimum wage laws always stood at the forefront. Every constituent case I analyzed linked back to the sub-minimum wage, this injustice often prevented workers from accessing privileges as citizens—loan mortgages and education grants. I felt ineffable despair as I watched servers toil to get ahead, only to be met with "no's" and "this is all you get."
To fashion my proposals into something more concrete, I introduced legislation to the Democratic State office that raises the server wage and establishes a hotline to report abuse. As I sealed the manilla envelope, I looked at the address and couldn’t help but feel pride. Less than a month later, I was contacted by the Senate Labor Committee of New Jersey. They told me my bill would be debated at the next committee hearing in January. News of the bill caught fast: More wage workers began standing up to their employers and lobbying for a fair wage—many even contacted the New Jersey wage board.
When advocating for quality of life of others, we must ask ourselves how we can ensure change is not just created but sustained?
Student written opinion pieces