By Jennifer Hughes

As a long-time food service worker, I know how difficult it can be to survive on tips. I remember working at a place where the minimum wage was $5.15/hr and no one could get full-time hours because the employer did not want to offer health benefits.

On top of being a full-time student, I had to constantly make quality of life decisions. I cut as many corners as I could: living with roommates, buying generic food and hygiene items, walking to class and carpooling to work. I was a long way from my home and my family, and my dog was all I had.

The last straw came when I had to make a decision between whether my dog or I would eat that night. It was hard decision but not one that I had not made before. I realized then that I could not keep my dog if I could not afford to feed us both. It was a heart-wrenching decision but I found a loving family to take him. I thought I had done everything right. He was like my child. It was at that moment that I wondered about the families of other tipped workers. What did they do? I decided there had to be an end to this system of poverty that keeps hard-working people like me in poverty.

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