Ontario’s minimum wage is $14.00/hour but restaurant servers only make $12.20/hour. That’s almost $2 below the minimum wage. Not to mention, $14 an hour isn’t a living wage, to begin with; waitresses are dependent on tips to make a living. Tips are also taxable and in some cases, waitresses are the ones that are responsible to track and report any amounts received. 

Restaurant servers are some of the hardest workers – they’re on their feet all day, interacting with the public no matter how annoying or rude they are, and juggling heavy plates of food. And yet our government allows waitresses to be paid below the poverty line. 

I hope to be a candidate in the next provincial election and I am not wasting any time to show my support on important issues because I want to represent the people, and I hate hearing stories of waitresses not earning enough from tips and in some cases, eating people’s leftover scraps so they don’t starve. It’s stories like these that sickens me to the core – that our government allows for this to happen.

Restaurant servers should be paid at least minimum wage; living wage is better and we should introduce (read more on oy stances on Living wage here) that as well as equal pay for servers. I don’t tip servers because they need me to or they won’t make enough money to survive, I tip them because I appreciate the services they provide for me and for giving me the day off from cooking and cleaning. 

Tipping, while practiced around the world, assumes a unique role in Canada, one to which most diners are obliged, because Canada is one of the only countries that allow businesses to offload the burden of paying employees. 

Ontario is one of the 3 provinces that pay servers less. Our minimum wage is already below the poverty line; why make it that much harder for servers to just survive? The province is allowing businesses to offload the burden of paying workers a fair wage to their customers. And though construed as a fair way to encourage hospitality and reward good service, tipping’s roots are in racialized exploitation, and recent data shows that it continues to be, at its core, racist, sexist, and degrading. 

We not only need to abolish server wages in Ontario but also tip pooling. Tip pooling means restaurant owners could collect servers’ tips and redistribute them as they see fit — including pocketing them for themselves. We should make it mandatory for restaurants to do percentage tip out instead of tip pooling with laws put in place to ensure that employers aren’t pocketing the money and the tip is shared fairly between everyone that provides services to the customers.

Here’s an example based on a to-go crew: I decided to use a delivery example because most restaurants are still making most of their money from delivery due to COVID.

If a delivery driver’s total sales equalled $1,000 and they earned $200 in tips, here’s how much the rest of the staff could earn:

The cook would receive $20 (or 10%)

The hostess (or person taking orders) would receive $12 (or 6%)

The order preparer would receive $26 (or 13%)

The busser would receive $12 (or 6%)

The delivery driver would take home $130, which equals 65% of their total tip earnings.

We need our elected representatives to wake up and break the poverty barrier that so many people are facing today, so more people can build a better future for themselves and their families. Its time to break that barrier and give servers the pay they deserve.

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