By Zachary Blackwell
Elm Staff Writer
A collection of Sonic drive-ins situated around the area of Columbus, Ohio, has been left reeling after several of their workers quit en masse in response to proposed reductions to their pay.
At three Sonic drive-ins, the entire staff of each store walked off the job after they became enraged over how their pay would change from the Ohio state minimum wage of $8.22 an hour for non-tipped workers, to a measly $4.30 an hour for tipped workers, according to CBS News.
The potential reduction in the payment of employees from slightly over $8 an hour to $4 an hour sounds harsh enough, but the perceived expectation that workers would need to receive most of their money through tips (at a fast-food restaurant, where tips are pretty much nonexistent) was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Sonic’s staff.
Some of the workers were so incensed by these rumors that they also left angry and profane notes taped to the windows of the restaurant for customers — and their former employers — to read. Most of the notes were highly critical of “new management” who they believed were implementing the unpopular payment changes.
The “new management” that the employees loathed isn’t a franchisee. Instead, the new owners are Sonic’s operating affiliate, SRI Holding Company, and they are the entity that gained control of the area’s 10 Sonic restaurants before the workers decided they had had enough.
Sonic itself has confirmed that their employees walked off before the ownership changed. However, the company also stated that the rumored price changes are a “misunderstanding” that were likely spread by a disgruntled manager who happened to lose their job recently. According to CBS MoneyWatch, a Sonic spokesperson said that “whatever hourly rate they were making last week, they are making this week.”
State officials have also explained that “if an employee’s total wages in a pay period including tips falls below the total Ohio minimum wage of $8.55 an hour, the employer must make up the difference.”
It is understandable that workers would become upset over rumors of such a cripplingly low wage being forced upon them. A wage of just over $4 an hour is illegal in both the state of Ohio and the nation. It would be unethical to expect people working at a fast-food restaurant to gather most of their income from tips. It has become the basic expectation of many people that a full-time job should at least provide enough money for necessities to live on, even if this expectation hasn’t been universally adopted by everyone.
However, that it seemed a former employee (a former manager, no less) broke the news about the supposedly lower wages emphasizes that people should remain alert of what’s going on around their workplace. Making sure the information that is needed is coming from a reliable source without potential biases or conflicts is important to remember in any case, not just employment.
If these employees took some time to ask the new ownership directly, instead of relying on someone who recently lost their job, they may not have been deceived and enraged. The anger that the Sonic workers were subject to could have been mostly avoidable if they had checked where the information about their employment was coming from.