According to the report, “the median hourly wage in the restaurant industry, including tips, is $10, compared with $18 outside of the restaurant industry.”
In The Post and Courier last week, food writer Hanna Raskin ran a long investigative piece on labor law violations by Charleston restaurants. It’s an important piece, well worth a read. In it, Raskin shows how violations in the Holy City caused restaurant workers to lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in wages over the past decade. Following audits by the U.S. Department of Labor, some restaurants have had to pay a few hundred dollars in back wages; others, many thousands.
Most surprising is that although many of the restaurants are sports bars and chains, some are among the city’s fancier eateries.
The restaurants cited included everything from Huddle House and Nathan’s Deli to Toast, The Noisy Oyster and Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse. A restaurant called Señor Tequila had to pay more than $100,000 in back wages.
O-Ku and The Macintosh were both cited; they’re part of the Indigo Road restaurant group, which also runs The Oak Table here in Columbia. According to Raskin, the owners were open with her about their earlier mistakes, “own[ing] up to all of the violations, which they say stemmed from failing to address entrenched restaurant practices, such as paying by the shift instead of the hour.” The group has hired an HR attorney to help it comply with labor law going forward.
Another of those entrenched restaurant practices is “staging,” Raskin writes, in which rising chefs essentially intern for free, working alongside other chefs to hone their skills. “Yet what makes the practice especially egregious in Charleston, according to a former FIG cook, is the rite of passage doesn’t seem to lead anywhere,” she writes. While a sous chef in New York City might make $70,000, a Charleston sous chef makes half that, so the hours put in for free aren’t translating into better wages down the line.
More common violations include forcing employees to work longer than their clocked-in shifts, requiring pooling of tips, not paying overtime, and in some cases even falsifying records or charging extra fees.
It’s troubling because, as a report from the Economic Policy Institute last week showed, around 40 percent of restaurant workers in America live in poverty or near poverty.
According to the report, “the median hourly wage in the restaurant industry, including tips, is $10, compared with $18 outside of the restaurant industry.” Restaurant workers rarely receive benefits. And the racial and gender disparities in the industry are severe, with black people “disproportionately likely to be cashiers/counter attendants, the lowest-paid occupation in the industry,” and Hispanics “disproportionately likely to be dishwashers, dining room attendants, or cooks, also relatively low-paid occupations.”
Restaurant workers pull long hours; it’s part of the ethic of the industry.
But plenty of restaurants manage to follow the law and pay their employees fairly.
In the end, Raskin’s piece is a call to arms for the restaurants with the power to, say, reform factory farming to turn their attention to fair wages for their own workers.
How does Columbia measure up? We’re looking into it.
Beltline Lizard’s Thicket Open Again
Following some renovations, the Lizard’s Thicket at 402 Beltline Boulevard reopened last week. It now has a green metal roof and big covered porch, like other Lizard’s Thicket locations, among other renovations. Visit lizardsthicket.com for more information.
Brew Pub Site Available
3520 Augusta Road, West Columbia. Click for more information.
Happy Hour and Sushi Specials All Week
Red Bowl in Lexington now has great early bird and late night sushi specials 7 days a week, as well as 99-cent kids meals on Saturdays! Click here for special information and hours.
Relaxation, Pain Management, and Stress Relief
Licensed massage therapist Allison Morris of AMR Massage offers 50% off your first session and every 5th session free of charge. Click here for location, hours, and more information.
Make Your Own Beer and Wine!
Come get started on your “liquid hobby” and help us celebrate our 46th year in the Columbia area. Bet Mar Liquid Hobby Shop: 736 St. Andrews Road.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Free Times is looking for a highly organized, detail-oriented self-starter to assist in gathering material from advertisers, coordinating between the sales and production departments, and handling routine clerical tasks. Must be proficient on a Mac, able to conduct business via phone, email, text, Dropbox, social media platforms and face to face while under deadline in a fast-paced, sometimes distracting work environment. The position requires the ability to multitask, excellent oral and written communication skills, and solid experience in quickly learning new computer programs. This is a full time position with benefits. Send a cover letter, resume and salary expectation to email@example.com.
Wing Zone is now hiring for experienced delivery drivers, cooks & cashiers. Apply in person @ 132 Assembly St. or call 803-933-9464.
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Real Estate Spotlight
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com