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Low-Wage America: Working at TJ's Restaurant

Deb Simpson
Noah Adams, NPR /
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Deb Simpson
Tammy Ogden
Noah Adams, NPR /
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Tammy Ogden
Rebecca Brown
Noah Adams, NPR /
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Rebecca Brown

NPR's Noah Adams visits TJ's restaurant in Auburn, Maine, for a conversation with two waitresses, Tammy Ogden and Deborah Simpson, and a dishwasher, Rebecca Brown. None of them work a 40-hour week, and the server's pay is $3.18 an hour -- half Maine's minimum wage -- plus tips.

They like to work both the lunch and dinner shifts, because it gives them time with their children in the late afternoon. Simpson now works just half of the year at TJ's -- she was recently elected to serve in Maine's House of Representatives.

That job pays $9,000 a year, but Simpson was able to vote herself a pay raise of sorts: the Maine legislature agreed to increase the state's minimum wage, which slightly improves her waitressing pay.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Noah Adams, long-time co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, brings more than three decades of radio experience to his current job as a contributing correspondent for NPR's National Desk., focusing on the low-wage workforce, farm issues, and the Katrina aftermath. Now based in Ohio, he travels extensively for his reporting assignments, a position he's held since 2003.