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Southern breakfast chain Waffle House announces company wide raises

The Union of Southern Service Workers has taken credit for Waffle House increasing base pay and introducing seniority bonuses.

Waffle House
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In a video uploaded to Vimeo in late May, Waffle House CEO Joe Rogers III announced the “single largest additional investment in [the company’s] workforce in the entire 68 year history.”

Waffle House is a national restaurant chain that specializes in breakfast food and is famous for being open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, rain or shine. As Waffle House as a franchise is heavily concentrated in the South, over 150 of all 2,000 Waffle House locations are located in Alabama.

This recently announced additional investment will take the form of increases to base pay, the introduction of additional pay for seniority, and shift premiums.

Currently all Waffle House workers are paid $3 per hour plus tips. Over the next few years, base pay will be increased to $5.25, $6.25, or $7.25 per hour, depending on a store’s location.

Rogers said that the first pay increases would take effect this month, but all of the planned changes would be gradually rolled out over the next couple years. Pay increases will not be fully implemented until June 2027.

Tenure bonuses and shift premiums will be slowly rolled out over the next few months, and both will be fully in place by February 2025.

Once fully implemented, after receiving three years of paychecks, workers will get a $0.50 per hour bonus, with an additional $0.10 per hour for each additional year up until a maximum of 30 years. Workers will also receive a $1.00 per hour shift premium for working the 2nd shift (2 p.m. to 9 p.m.) and a $0.50 per hour shift premium for working the 3rd shift (9 p.m. to 7 a.m.).

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These announced pay increases come after a March strike by members of the Union of Southern Service Workers at a Waffle House location in Conyers, Georgia, and several other protests in the Atlanta area. Workers were primarily objecting to $3 being deducted from their pay every shift for a meal credit, regardless of whether they ate during their shift or not.

The USSW says that its recent organizing and its push for a $25 per hour minimum wage for Waffle House workers are responsible for the companys recent policy change.

This is hardly a wild claim. Companies frequently offer raises and other concessions to head off union organizing efforts. In the lead up to the union election at the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa, Mercedes increased their top pay rate for production workers to $34 an hour.

In November, in the immediate aftermath of the United Auto Workers’ successful Stand Up Strike, Hyundai announced that the company would roll out 25 percent raises over the next few years. However, a unionization campaign at the Hyundai plant in Montgomery began in February regardless.

In an email, Cindy Smith, a Waffle House employee associated with the USSW, said that “thanks to our organizing, thousands of Waffle House servers like me will be on a path to receiving as much as a $3/hr increase in our base tipped wage and additional pay based on our seniority.”

She also said that before the USSW became active, she had worked for Waffle House for 30 years and “never gotten a raise.”

All this proves is that when we fight, we win, Smith said in a video posted to X. But it’s still not enough. It takes a lot to pay your bills. We need a livable wage. $25 an hour is a livable wage.

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Chance Phillips is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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