Should tipped workers get paid minimum wage?

Survey says 94 percent of state restaurant workers support ‘One Fair Wage’ movement


As it currently stands city restaurants are only required to pay their workers a wage of $10.65 an hour, barring that wage combined with tips isn’t less than $16.

A survey released by the One Fair Wage organization found that 94 percent of New York state restaurant workers supported movement to end subminimum wage for tipped workers. Legislation from state Sen. Robert Jackson and Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas would do just that.

The One Fair Wage Bill would provide minimum wage requirements for miscellaneous industry workers and allow tip sharing by waiters with all employees front and back. Jackson, sponsor of the Senate’s version of the bill, explained to The Riverdale Press what some of the bill’s main objectives are.

“The One Fair Wage bill is for miscellaneous workers, more specifically in the restaurant industry, where most of the people in the industry are women and women of color,” he said. “And this is about getting up to the minimum wage that has passed in New York state right now.

“When the minimum wage went up to ($16) an hour they were left out. This is about getting them right on par with everybody else as far as earning a minimum wage plus tips.”

Key findings from the survey conducted by the One Fair Wage said nearly half of state tipped workers reported they are leaving the industry due to wages and tips being too low, and that more than 120,000 tipped workers did not return to the industry after pandemic-related shutdowns.

According to the survey, more than half of state tipped workers reported that their top reason they would come back to the industry would be “A full, stable, livable wage.”

“Passing One Fair Wage legislation will strengthen one of New York’s most vulnerable and hardworking workforces,” said Assemblywoman González-Rojas, sponsor of the Assembly’s version of the bill in a press release. “The restaurant labor force is largely made up of women — including many women of color and mothers who are struggling to make ends meet due to low wages and declining tips. I’m alarmed by reports that women working in the industry are frequently forced to tolerate inappropriate customer behavior to feed their families in tips. We have an opportunity this legislative session to ensure that these employees receive a livable, predictable wage, and we must act now.”

Jackson said the bill would be critical in helping people support their families, pay their rent and put food on the table. It would address disparities in wage and get economic security for low-wage employees by letting workers earn every single day, he said. It could also help migrants in the city who are searching for jobs.

“It is more critical now because, one, you have a lot more migrants that are in New York City,” Jackson said. “If you don’t have a home then you’re eating outside. Number 2, is that some people say ‘well these are new migrants here looking for opportunities and work for subminimum wage.’”

A survey by the NYC Hospitality Alliance showed 95 percent of restaurateurs oppose eliminating the tip credit system, which allows owners to pay waiters who earn tips less than minimum wage, the New York Post reported. According to a spokesperson for Jackson, the proposed legislation does not eliminate tips, but transfers the responsibility of ensuring a minimum wage to the owners rather than relying on the customers.

Other critics of the bill fear that business prices would rise if the bill passes.

“It’s just like when you go out and buy food prices go up,” Jackson said. “We’re not talking about drastic prices here. We’re talking about taking someone to the minimum wage of $16 an hour and that’s not asking for too much.”

Jackson says that customers understand the logic and reasoning behind prices raising to account for paying workers minimum wage. He added that a majority of businesses that went to minimum wage in other states are still in business. For those employers, it would be a benefit, he said, because it is likely that more people who are discontent with their subminimum wage will leave.

“Let’s hope that it will be passed this year knowing what it would mean to so many people, tens of thousands of people, miscellaneous workers in New York City and the rest of the state,” Jackson said.

One Fair Wage, legislation, tipped workers, tips, restaurants, employers, employees, Robert Jackson