Recession hits busboys

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Add another job to the growing list of recession casualties. With restaurant traffic plunging, many restaurateurs are looking to cut costs any way they can. And for some T.G.I Friday's franchisees, that might means eliminating busboys. Restaurants across the country -- mom and pops and chains -- are asking waiters and waitresses to bus their own tables.

According toThe Wall Street Journal (subscription required), "That isn't always going so smoothly. Plates are lingering longer on tabletops, floors aren't getting cleaned and spoons, servers say, are mysteriously disappearing. Some servers are refusing to clear tables, forgetting to wash their hands afterward and even quitting their jobs over the change, managers and consultants say."

While it's hard to blame restaurants for trying to save their bottom lines, the reasoning behind this change is a little bit dicey. Waitstaff can be paid less than minimum wage because they receive tips -- in some states, the hourly wage can be as low as $2.13 per hour compared with $6.55 for busboys. But if waiters are being asked to serve fewer tables and spend more time busing after people leave, are they really still waiters? Or should they now be subject to minimum wage laws?

The biggest victims of this change would seem to be high school students who often bus as preparation for waiting tables when they're in college. If the restaurant industry's woes persist and these layoffs become more widespread, the government may need to take a hard look at how much busing waiters are doing in determining whether than qualify for the $2.13 per hour wage.
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