Pushed to the brink by barely livable wages, one employee said he quit working in healthcare to make more money serving tables.
The 25-year-old man from Colorado shared his story on Reddit’s “Antiwork” forum on Sunday, quickly garnering 11,000 votes. Writing anonymously under the username u/mycoloradogy, he titled the Publish“I lost 4 years to [the] field medical work at minimum wage. I went back to serving tables and am now making close to $30/hr. The American wage system is destroyed.”
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 salary fluctuated between $12.50/hr and $16.50/hr,” the worker said.
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 scraping with what I needed for rent,” he wrote.
Eventually, the worker left 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.”
As restaurant workers left the industry in droves, companies offered pay rises, signing bonuses and other perks to save their workforces.
McDonald’s raised its hourly wage by an average of 10% last year, while a burger restaurant in Kent, Washington, went viral by paying its employees $20 an hour.
In March, a New Orleans restaurant advertised an ad for a line cook with wages starting at $22-25 an hour as well as “nights off, free food, booze free [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”
The Colorado employee’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. The target pays 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.
Newsweek contacted u/mycoloradogy for comment.