The State Wage Board’s recommendation Friday to raise the minimum wage of tipped workers is a step in the right direction. Coming after more than a year of picketing and outreach in front of the State Department of Labor by service worker members and supporters of the Justice Will Be Served Campaign, this recommendation finally ends the discriminatory exclusion of tipped workers from the 2013 minimum-wage increase in New York State.
Now Governor Cuomo has a chance to set things right for tipped workers. The Wage Board’s recommendation of an increase to $7.50 an hour falls short of what is needed. It is too little, too late. $7.50 is still a poverty wage in New York. Governor Cuomo should raise the minimum wage for tipped and non-tipped workers immediately–and not delay until the end of the year–and tie it to inflation.
Moreover, he should enforce the labor law to make any increase real. Delivery workers, busboys, and nail salon workers are among those making as little as $2 an hour. Some are not paid a wage but told to rely on tips. Yet, many report tips being illegally pocketed by their employers.
Tips are also vital to tipped workers’ wages and need to be protected. With an increase in wages for tipped workers, employers will try to use other means to generate profits. For example, in New York City’s Chinatowns in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, already 30% of the restaurants have raised the prices of food on their menu and posted notices on the wall instructing customers not to tip. In light of these practices, we call on the State to strengthen enforcement to prevent tip stealing. Enact new legal protections for workers so that employers cannot discourage customers from tipping or forbid their employees from informing customers that tips are not included. In the event that they do, employers shouldbe held responsible for the lost tipped wages.
The Justice Will Be Served Campaign is sponsored by the Chinese Staff & Workers Association, Flushing Workers Center, National Mobilization Against SweatShops, and the 318 Restaurant Workers Union. We invite all service workers to join us in calling on Governor Cuomo to give us a real minimum-wage increase and enforce to law so we can eliminate the sweatshop conditions in our workplaces and fight for improvements.