Editor's note: If you are a UT student who needs financial assistance, apply for emergency funding here.
With my job in the food service industry designated as essential business, I am still fortunate enough to have work.
Normally, I make minimum wage with additional credit card and cash tips boosting my income to a livable amount. Now, customers can no longer come into the store, and delivery services such as Uber Eats and Postmates have eaten up the additional tips that would have pushed my paycheck above minimum wage.
In the past two weeks, I’ve made approximately 45% less than what I used to. While I am fortunate enough to live with my parents during the outbreak and don’t have to worry about expenses like food, I know this isn’t the case for thousands of others in the industry.
Thousands of college students flock to food service jobs to financially support themselves during their academic careers. However, COVID-19 and resulting stay at home mandates have shut down countless restaurants, forcing students to apply for unemployment. People who still hold jobs in the industry are facing tremendous losses with low customer turnout affecting their weekly income.
With this in mind, I’m asking you to make an effort and tip essential workers if you have the ability to.
Workers in the food service industry are suffering incredible losses with very little compensation. If a college student is working a food service job using tips to get by, not only does this individual not qualify for the government-mandated stimulus check, but their employment status does not allow them to apply for unemployment benefits. Food service workers face extreme anxiety by putting their health at risk every shift, only to make less money than they were before.
This is why tipping if you can is important now more than ever.
People working in the industry during these turbulent times aren’t here for your own benefit. They are working because they have to. It's common for customers to forget the humanity behind the individual preparing their order — contactless delivery and ordering have made this infinitely easier. We need to take the effort to recognize and remember the hardships that these essential workers face every day.
Every Sunday I go to work fearful that contact with a customer might increase my risk of contracting COVID-19. I can’t fathom the dread full-time workers face.
These people work tirelessly to create a safe environment and prepare your food with minimal risk. While many restaurants put up precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there is simply no way to guarantee an employee’s safety. All the while, tips stay scarce, and our paychecks are lower than ever before.
Keep this information in mind the next time you go to your favorite restaurant to pick up some food. Check your pockets. If you have enough disposable income to tip even 10%, that's money helping someone get by.
Shafi is a government major from Round Rock, Texas.