Pushed to the brink by barely livable wages, one employee said he quit working in healthcare to make more money serving tables.
Brett Buckley from Colorado Springs, Colorado, shared his story in Reddit‘s “Antiwork” forum on Sunday, quickly garnering 11,000 votes. The 25-year-old titled his Publish“I wasted 4 years in the medical field on minimum wage. I went back to the duty tables and am now making close to $30/hr. The American wage system is destroyed.”
“I’ve only been working at the restaurant for a month and immediately became happier,” Buckley said. Newsweek. “Less stress at work, fewer hours, finally having days off with the wife when I had none before.”
The employee said he started working in restaurants when he was 16, but when he was 20 he decided to pursue another career. For the next four years, he tried jobs as a nanny, carer for the elderly and disabled, and sterilization technician at a dental clinic.
“In each of these jobs, the pay ranged from $12.50/hr to $16.50/hr,” Buckley said on Reddit.
The lowest salary he earned was at a program for people with autism and Down syndrome, where he saw six clients for eight hours a day at minimum wage.
“To my last drop I was working full time, no days off with the wife and no money (literally) after I got what I needed for rent,” he wrote.
Eventually, Buckley quit the medical field and returned to waiting tables at a fish and oyster bar. There, he earned nearly $30 an hour, double his previous wages, while working half his previous hours.
“Ironically enough, I work in the restaurant with a paramedic and a teacher,” he said. “They both went back to the restaurant like me because they were overworked and underpaid.”
Buckley said Newsweek that his return to food service ended up being the obvious choice.
“If I had been paid properly as a medical provider, I honestly would have stayed,” he said. “But because the food industry allows me to take care of my life and not burn myself out caring for others on so little pay, the decision was unfortunately too easy.”
As restaurant workers left the industry in droves, companies offered pay rises, signing bonuses and other perks to save their workforces.
In March, a dinner in New Orleans announced a roster for a line cook with pay starting at $22-25 an hour plus “nights off, free food, free booze [and] health insurance.”
Yet the median hourly wage for food and beverage service was $12.49 in May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Editors’ reactions: “A general trend”
Buckley’s post sparked a chorus of anger and disappointment on Reddit, as readers bemoaned the low wages given to medical workers who provide the nation’s most essential services.
“I noticed a general trend,” one user commented. “The more directly a job meets people’s basic needs, the less it pays.”
Another reader offered his own story.
“I work in health care down south,” they said. “Hospitals cannot hire CNAs/PCTs/unit secretaries, monitor technicians, phlebotomists, etc. [because] wages are so low. Target pay more. Serving earns more. And that’s for a large, very well-funded hospital.”
Low wages have had a devastating effect on patients, they said.
“Nursing homes and rehabilitation centers are so poorly staffed that they are not accepting new patients, so patients wait several days in hospital, just waiting for a place to have an opening. [because] they are too sick to go home alone,” they wrote.
Update 08/01/22, 6:43 PM ET: This article has been updated with additional news and information.