Counter Culture Waitress Blog

Nevada Waitresses: Dishing It Out in the West
Henderson, Nevada

The Rainbow - Henderson, Nevada

Nevada was unlike any other state I visited in terms of the benefits that waitresses received. Virginia Brandon moved to Nevada from California because of the benefits Nevada offered to restaurant workers. “The union makes a big difference.” says Susan Thurmond, Virginia’s daughter, who worked with her mom at the Rainbow in Henderson, Nevada. She continues, “We get retirement benefits, maternity leave, health insurance….we get it all. We had to fight for it though.” Even if a waitress doesn’t work in a union house, the union is so strong in Nevada that non-union restaurants still have to offer health insurance and retirement benefits to attract workers.

I wouldn’t do anything else,” says Virginia who’s been waiting tables for almost 50 years. And when people question Esther Paul’s career choice, (she’s waitressed at Sharkey’s in Gardnerville, Nevada since 1969) she says, “So many of them look down their noses at you. ‘You do this for a living?’ And I say,  ‘Well it’s an honest living. What’s the big deal?’”

People assume that lifers are struggling in roadside dives picking up loose change that cheap, disgruntled, customers leave behind; when the truth is that the waitresses who have paid their dues make a very comfortable living wage. Georgina makes around 30 dollars an hour — not bad for a job that requires little or no formal education. Esther worked at a hospital and said, “I had to quit because I made more money waitressing.” And to boot, many longstanding coffee shops are recession-proof since the majority of their clientele are already on fixed incomes. Virginia says, “We get the same regulars, day after day, no matter what, and they always order the same thing. Our business is as good as it ever was.”


3 Comments so far
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Good blog! I

Comment by nirumi

Thanks. Do you have any stories about diners or waitresses that you’d like to share?

Comment by Candacy Taylor

My mother in law Esther Paul just retired and I am making her a scrapbook Do you still have the original article or copy or comment for her book Thanks

Comment by Diane Pemberton

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