Though this year’s legislative session is over, the fight for higher wages continues. Last year, when legislation that will raise the minimum wage in New York from $7.25 per hour to $9.00 by the end of 2015 was passed, a large sector of workers were excluded from the raise. Tipped workers - restaurant servers and hotel workers - were left with a frozen minimum wage of just $5.00 per hour.
- The low tipped minimum wage predominantly hurts women, who make up more than 70 percent of all tipped workers. It also contributes to the gender pay gap (women are paid just 83 cents for every dollar that men are paid).
- A low tipped minimum wage contributes to high poverty rates and low incomes among tipped workers. Nationally, tipped workers are more than twice as likely to experience poverty, and restaurant servers are almost three times as likely to experience poverty, as all other workers. - In the seven states that require employers to pay the full minimum wage directly to tipped workers, poverty among tipped workers has been reduced without slowing job growth or reducing employment in the restaurant industry. - Tipped workers are vulnerable to wide fluctuations in pay as tips very substantially from season to season and shift to shift.
Rather than keeping the tipped minimum wage on track with the other minimum wage increase, the legislation passed last year mandated instead that the NYS Dept. of Labor use a “wage board” to determine whether such workers will get a raise, and if so, how much.
This board will be appointed and begin holding hearings in the next few months, issuing a final report for approval by the Labor Commissioner at the beginning of next year. This process is a unique opportunity to advocate on behalf of low-wage workers.
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