A Texas woman's viral TikTok video has fueled a debate about the low wages that are common within the service industry.
Aaliyah Cortez has spent the last year working as a bartender/server at an Austin sports bar. The 20-year-old woman recently posted a clip in which she shows her $9.28 paycheck for more than 70 hours of work. Now some of you may be thinking: How is that possible? Cortez breaks it down within the video.
"This is my hourly for two weeks, I worked almost 71 hours," Cortez said. "I get paid $2.13 an hour as a bartender and a server. I should have made $150.81, but because I have to have Social Security, Medicare, and the income tax taken out, I was paid $9.28 for 70 hours of work."
Like many service workers, Cortez's hourly pay is less than the federal minimum wage due to a "tip credit." This law allows employers to pay service workers less as long as the employee's tips and hourly pay add up to the minimum wage. Cortez told BuzzFeed News she decided to share her paycheck to underscore the importance of tipping.
"There are laws set up that allow tipped employees to be paid under the federal minimum wage, which makes us rely on the customer to pay our wages," she said, before adding that her reported tips affect how much she is taxed per paycheck. "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."
She continued: "I just wish we were all being paid adequately and consistently. As you can see — by my check — I cannot afford to live off of $2.13 an hour, so I solely rely on the generosity of my customers."
As Cortez's video circulated online, more and more people expressed outrage over the inconsistent and low wages within her line of work. Some, however, questioned why Cortez didn't simply quit her job if she was worried about financial security. Cortez responded to those critics in a follow-up TikTok video, stating she liked her job—she just doesn't agree with the "tip credit."