After a Texas woman posted a TikTok that showed her $9.28 paycheck for 70 hours of bartending and serving, many strangers responded, questioning why she would stay at that job with such a dismal salary. Once her initial TikTok went viral, Aaliyah Cortez decided to follow it up with another one that explained how she actually liked her job and people were missing the point. Cortez was commenting on the unfairness of the law allowing service employees to be paid less than the federal minimum wage under the expectation that their tips will provide a sufficient boost to reach that income.
“This is my hourly for two weeks, I worked almost 71 hours,” Cortez explained in her first viral TikTok. “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.
On top of that, she claimed that her reported tips affect how much is deducted from each of her paycheck. Under this sort of system, service employees are largely left reliant on the generosity of customers in order to stay afloat. Cortez told BuzzFeed News that primary motivation for making this PSA was to underscore the importance of tipping, as she states at the outset of the video.
“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. 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.”
The 20-year-old has spent the last year working as a bartender/server at an Austin sports bar. After commenters wondered why she would keep her poor-paying job, she reminded them that her job is still enjoyable and she manages to make decent money off tips. However, if she happened to encounter a bunch of stingy customers, her income would seriously suffer and the government does not ensure her labour will be adequately compensated.