The raise in the national minimum wage to $7.25 that goes into effect tomorrow gives some relief to America’s most hard-pressed workers. But as you might imagine there are loopholes. For employees who make much of their money on gratuities — including waiters, waitresses, and bartenders — the minimum cash wage remains $2.13. It’s been $2.13 since 1991. A handful of states don’t allow a “tip credit” toward meeting minumum wage and have the same wage requirements for all workers — but New York isn’t one of those states.
The National Employment Law Project says that’s no good. By their reckoning [pdf], tipped workers “earn a nationwide median wage of $8.23 per hour or just $17,118 annually, including tips.” Waiters generally make more, and in New York substantially more for the most part, but fluctuations in the economy and conditions in specific workplaces make the going tough in hard times — which, as tipped workers in Vegas have noticed, we are currently in.
NELP wants legislation to raise tipped workers’ minimum to 60% of the full minimum wage, and to “make the tipped worker minimum wage increase automatically when the full minimum wage increases” henceforth. They also want stronger protections against “tip stealing” on pooled gratuities — which, alas, would not extend to employees of this guy’s restaurant.