Nykole Roche & Adam Corriveau: Northampton’s vitality supported by low-wage workers
Creatas RF Purchase photo reprints »
To the editor:
Thursday’s Gazette article on the proposed increase in the minimum wage and the sub-minimum wage paid to tipped employees reflects the deep problems in the narrative around low-wage work.
In short, we are always talking about owners’ interests, not those of the workers who have to survive on these wages. Only one minimum wage worker was interviewed for this story, and not a single worker who lives on tips. Are they that difficult to find? How about the person serving your drinks, making your coffee, cooking your meals in a kitchen that is still hot in November? Where are the voices of these workers?
Owners’ voices rang out, though. Unsurprisingly, most of them oppose the increases, or support the part that would impact them the least. Of course Claudio Guerra doesn’t want to pay tipped employees more than $2.63/hour. His focus is his profit margins. He didn’t offer to take a small pay cut to offset minor increases he will pay to employees; he just suggested that patrons will soon pay more for their meals as a result.
The truth is that patrons have been supporting his employees for decades because he — and others like him — won’t pay them a real wage.
And let’s not confuse Guerra’s interests with those of his employees. The servers who keep his many businesses running want to be able to pay the rent, afford childcare and health care, enjoy a fraction of the leisure activities their boss does. Don’t they have this right?
Northampton is a vital part of the Valley in part because of its downtown businesses and not one of them could operate without the thousands of low-wage workers who keep them going. Raising the minimum wage and the wage paid to tipped workers isn’t enough, but it’s a step in the right direction.