How long has it been since you’ve had a raise? For some workers, it has been entirely too long. Today – Friday, April 1, 2016 – marks the 25th anniversary since the minimum wage for tipped workers has been increased. For 25 years now, the minimum wage for an estimated 5.3 million workers in the U.S. has been frozen at a paltry $2.13 an hour.
Who are tipped workers? As the words imply, most – 58 percent – are waiters and bartenders. But they are also bar-backs, bellhops, parking attendants, nail salon workers, car washers, airport service workers and food delivery people.
And about two-thirds of them are women. If you stop and think about it, this means that the $2.13 minimum wage for tipped workers is actually a form of legislated pay inequity.
Tipped workers, when you combine their tips and their $2.13 an hour “salary,” earn a median income of $14,596 a year in states that have not unilaterally taken action to raise the tipped minimum wage. Many are parents; obviously, such below-poverty wages complicate their struggle to survive and raise healthy children. Almost half receive some form of public assistance; fully 15 percent live below the poverty line.
Who is fighting to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers? A coalition of groups CHN admires and works with – the AFL-CIO, Economic Policy Institute, the National Employment Law Project and ROC-United, among others.
And who is opposing them? You might be able to guess. It’s business groups and in particular the restaurant industry. They argue that raising the minimum tipped wage would cause economic harm, limiting, for example, restaurants’ ability to expand and even causing restaurants to lay off workers or shut down.
The evidence shows otherwise. A number of states – particularly in the western continental U.S., but also Alaska, Hawaii, Minnesota and New York, have raised the tipped minimum wage either to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 or close to it. And studies show no harm has been done, either to the restaurants themselves or to the economy.
One survey of more than 1,000 restaurant employers found that higher wages cut employee turnover in half, which in turn reduces recruitment and training costs. And when workers are more secure financially, they tend to stay in the same job longer, which makes them more productive and effective, and able to serve customers better. Finally, these same, better paid employees have more money to spend in the local economy – including at other restaurants.
So what is to be done?
Currently groups such as ROC-United are advocating for wage increases at the state level as they seek to build a national movement. You can sign up for their campaign and even contact your state legislators. And if you’re a tipped worker who is having trouble making ends meet, they would love to hear your story.
Today and through the month of April, CHN is going to be engaging in social media to elevate the need for raising the tipped minimum wage. Here are some sample tweets:
The tipped subminimum wage has been $2.13/hr for 25 years today. It’s time hardworking families got a raise. #1FairWage www.1FairWage.com
Hard work deserves fair pay. It’s been 25 years of $2.13/hr. Families are way overdue for a raise. #1FairWage www.1FairWage.com
It’s been 25 years since tipped workers got a raise bc lobbyists work to keep their wages @ $2.13/hr. Let’s change it. www.1FairWage.com
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the $2.13 tipped subminimum wage. It’s way past time we had #1FairWage. www.1FairWage.com
We make $ for our restaurants; why aren’t we paid for our labor? Take 60 seconds to tell your legislators: #1FairWage www.1FairWage.com
In any other industry not paying an employee for their labor is considered a crime. Why not ours? #1FairWage www.1FairWage.com
If the big lobbying groups can spend millions to bribe Congress to keep wages low why can’t they just pay us a fair wage? #1FairWage
“How can a CEO’s make millions/yr for sitting in an office but I work my butt off for $2.13? How is that fair?” #1FairWage www.1FairWage.com
POP QUIZ: What is the only industry sanctioned by law to pay as little as $2.13/hr for a 12 hour shift? #1FairWage www.1FairWage.com