Two Questions

Before I forget, I noticed that Gatlinburg, the Wisconsin Dells, and Orlando all have something in common, beyond the same shitty neon-lit tourist traps.  Foreign workers.  I met people from Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Lithuania, Bulgaria,  and various other (mostly) eastern European countries, working in restaurants, bars, and attractions.  In the Dells, many of them were students, working their school breaks in America in exchange for a free trip here.  They work so many days, then they get time off to visit as tourists.  The largest theme park in the Dells contracts a company to fill these slots for them year round.  Most of the workers spoke passable English, but many did not.  Now, I think its great for these kids, because for most of them, a trip an expensive theme resort in America would be unaffordable, but it has me wondering why these businesses are unable to staff up using locals.  Is it the pay?  Are there not enough teenagers and young adults living nearby to fill those positions?  I need to research this a little more….

Next, I asked this question in a thread I posted long ago, and no one was able to answer my question to my satisfaction.  So, I will stubbornly ask again:

My eldest daughter is a server in a well known, somewhat expensive chain restaurant in Southern California.  We have one of their stores here in Nashville.  In California, the servers are paid a State-mandated minimum wage, which is presently 8 dollars an hour.   Here in Tennessee, I believe it is still legal to pay a server well under three dollars an hour.  I know California real estate is much more to buy or lease.  I’m sure utilities are more expensive than here in Nashville.  You can bet California taxes businesses at a much higher rate than Tennessee.  Yet, somehow, those businesses manage to pay their servers five dollars an hour more than they pay them here, and continue to profit, and profit handsomely.  The prices are the same, yet the costs of doing business is much higher.  Does anyone believe that if Tennessee enacted law that required chain-restaurants to raise server pay to say…5.00 an hour, that the chain stores would simply elect not to do business here?  I doubt it. Also, I don’t see that the “lower cost of living” argument is valid.  It may very well be that a floor manager may take less salary than in Los Angeles because he can raise his family on less here, but the fact remains that many servers have families to feed as well, and 2.67 an hour must be supplemented somehow.  Usually that means more theft, more turn-over, poor job performance, etc…as well as using ER’s as clinics, and forgoing car insurance, etc.  Why can’t we use some sort of scale based on the size of the corporation, with safeguards to protect start-ups and sole proprietors? I think we could, and we should.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Two Questions

  1. Lesley

    There are several reasons why companies use these foreign workers. For one thing, it’s easy–many of these people are employed by an agency that brings them here, provides their housing, etc. The hospitality company pays the agency and the agency takes care of the employees. You don’t like one of the employees? Just exchange him or her for another. But that’s pretty rare. Because another reason to hire these people is their work ethic. So many of them are so genuinely happy to be in the U.S. that they will do anything and do it well and with a smile on their face. No surly attitude resulting from the privilege of growing up American. And it’s cost-effective. Not because their pay is low–though there can be some reduction in labor costs due to lack of benefits and training (most are trained by the agencies)–but moreso because the employees are reliable and pretty much guaranteed to show up for work everyday. They don’t get sick, have car trouble (the agencies drive them to work), have family issues to deal with…it’s just good business sense to hire these people.

  2. Lesley, those are my suspicions as well. Work ethic and attitude.

  3. democommie

    Low pay for “hospitality workers” is shameful. Of course if people had to pay, instead of maybe tipping for good service then that would be viewed as an injustice by them. The servers in most situations are taxed on gratuities at a rate of 8% of their sales totals. I don’t spend a lot when I go for a couple of beers, but I tip decently. $2-3.50 for a couple of beers (I just usually round off the check to $10.00, but there are people (more than you might think) who consider 10% a big tip.

  4. I’m about to write a blog on tipping.
    Tennessee should pay its servers whatever the minimum wage is for a non-tipped employee.

    I don’t know how people live off 2.37 an hour + tips, cause some people are asses about tipping.

  5. That pancake or waffle place whatever it’s called is actually pretty some kinda awesome. You’ve seen it by now, I always call it the House of A Million and One Pancakes, but anyway. Yeah.

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