Low-Wage America: Working at TJ's Restaurant

Waiting Tables, Washing Dishes and Working for Tips

Deb Simpson

Deb Simpson Noah Adams, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Noah Adams, NPR
Tammy Ogden

Tammy Ogden Noah Adams, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Noah Adams, NPR
Rebecca Brown

Rebecca Brown Noah Adams, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Noah Adams, NPR

NPR's Noah Adams visits TJ's restaurant in Auburn, Maine, for a conversation with two waitresses, Tammy Ogden and Deborah Simpson, and a dishwasher, Rebecca Brown. None of them work a 40-hour week, and the server's pay is $3.18 an hour — half Maine's minimum wage — plus tips.

They like to work both the lunch and dinner shifts, because it gives them time with their children in the late afternoon. Simpson now works just half of the year at TJ's — she was recently elected to serve in Maine's House of Representatives.

That job pays $9,000 a year, but Simpson was able to vote herself a pay raise of sorts: the Maine legislature agreed to increase the state's minimum wage, which slightly improves her waitressing pay.

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