January 12, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – The state’s Wage Board convened this week without issuing an anticipated recommendation on the future of the sub-minimum wage as members aligned with wealthy business interests once again argued that eliminating the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers would somehow hurt employers, cost jobs and result in higher menu prices.
Those stale arguments, however, run counter to existing evidence from no less than seven states around the country where the restaurant industry is thriving, despite having already scrapped the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers.
According to ROC United – the restaurant workers’ advocacy group fighting to eliminate New York’s sub-minimum wage in 2015 – voters are much more concerned about chronic income inequality and jobs with wages so low workers are often forced into public support programs.
“To do right by New York’s voters means Acting Labor Commissioner Mario J. Musolino and the Wage Board should do more than mull over a $2 raise for tipped workers, and instead eliminate New York’s two-tiered wage system altogether,” Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, said in a statement.
Despite ongoing protestations from Empire State business interests, Jayaraman says that eliminating the sub-minimum wage and making sure all workers receive one fair minimum wage is what New Yorkers demand.
A new ROC United-commissioned poll reveals that an overwhelming 75 percent of New Yorkers across partisan lines supports elimination of the sub-minimum wage.
While the state bumped up the minimum wage to $8.75 for other workers, tipped workers largely centered in the restaurant industry still must scrape by on roughly five bucks an hour.
In addition to keeping families in poverty, that paltry sum creates a well-documented climate in which female workers reliant on tips to survive, are forced to endure intolerable abuse on the job.
“This is what New York’s voters want,” Jayaraman said. “In what amounts to a public mandate, new polling data shows that the majority of New Yorkers, across partisan groups, want one fair wage. They’re ready for it not only in the city, but also Upstate where voters favor eliminating the lower, tipped minimum wage by a more than 3 to 1 margin.”
Wage Board Chair Timothy Grippen reportedly proposed phasing in an increase to the sub-minimum wage over the course of this year, but even that measure failed to assuage members supportive of intractable business owners.
“The bottom line is that voters are sick and tired of picking up the slack for the abysmally low wages of the restaurant industry,” Jayaraman added. “Folks rightly see the lower sub-minimum wage for tipped workers as unfair, since it amounts to forcing customers to pay the bulk of a server’s wages, and servers are already three times more likely than other workers to live in poverty. Gov. Cuomo, Musolino, and the Wage Board have the ability to make New York a One Fair Wage state and it’s clear that if New York becomes the eighth state to eliminate the tipped minimum wage, the move would be met with widespread public support.”