Alaska, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington—what do they all have in common? They are the only U.S. states that do not allow a “tip credit.” A tip credit is the amount of money that an employer assumes its employees will receive in tips within an hour of work; that amount is then deducted from the minimum hourly wage the employer is required to pay. So, in just seven states, you get paid the state-mandated minimum wage you’re entitled to, plus however much money you receive in tips during your shift. (Good on you, seven states.) In the other 43 states, though, your hourly pay falls below the minimum wage. In more than a dozen states, the standard is $2.13 an hour.
You might already know all this, but it’s necessary context for a TikTok video that recently went viral, in which a server/bartender in Texas (one of those $2.13 states) reveals that her paycheck for over 70 hours of work amounted to just $9.28:
Aaliyah Cortez does a good job breaking down how so much work could possibly translate to so little money: Social Security, Medicare, and federal income tax all take their share, but of course, the biggest dent to take-home pay is the standard $2.13 hourly payment, which, absent all other taxes, would have still only amounted to $150 for working almost twice the hours of the standard work week. Cortez adds, “Of course I got tips, but this is what I got for my hourly.” And that’s exactly why she starts the video with, “So this is why you should always tip your bartenders, servers, anyone who waits on you.” She also captioned the video “PSA.”
BuzzFeed spoke with Cortez, who explained that this is not a unique situation to be in. While she likes her job, she unpacks the reality of the service industry with stark clarity: “If I had a good two weeks from tips, my check will be on the lower side. At my last restaurant, my checks would come out to be $0.”
“I cannot afford to live off of $2.13 an hour,” Cortez told BuzzFeed, “so I solely rely on the generosity of my customers.”