It’s another big victory for the Fight For $15 — a movement that started with a few courageous workers in Downtown Brooklyn less than four years ago and this week won billions for workers in California and in New York.
It’s a victory for Governor Andrew Cuomo, who demonstrated bipartisan leadership by working with lawmakers from both parties to win a $15 wage for millions of New York workers.
But the biggest victory is for workers and their families, who will finally get paychecks that will lift them out of poverty and a measure of the respect they have earned.
We’ll now work with allies and activists to fight for economic fairness for Upstate workers whose raises have been temporarily delayed by a small number of GOP Senators standing in the way of progress.
And we’ll work for fair-share tax reform to make sure New York can keep investing in the schools, jobs, housing, healthcare and antipoverty initiatives that together with today’s wage hike will lead towards broader prosperity and a stronger economy for all New Yorkers.
The #1FairWage Coalition of New York commends today’s announcement by Governor Cuomo that the state will raise the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers to $7.50 an hour at the end of the year, up from the current $5 an hour. This increase is long overdue and will dramatically improve the lives of New York’s 229,000 restaurant servers, hospitality workers and other tipped workers, 70 percent of whom are women.
For too long, this archaic and unjust sub-minimum wage has worked to keep New York’s tipped workers in poverty, and has survived only because of the strength of the restaurant lobby. Today’s announcement of a $2.50 increase is a significant step forward toward eliminating this sub-minimum wage altogether and ensuring that tipped workers – like all workers –receive the full minimum wage.
And the evidence shows that this increase will be manageable for employers in New York. Eight states across the country require that tipped workers receive the full minimum wage directly from their employer, and have found that this policy has reduced poverty rates without slowing job growth or reducing employment.
We hope that today’s announcement –a major victory for low-wage workers around the state – is just the first step toward joining these states.
Voices of Workers and Coalition Members
“I am a full-time employee and homeless; today’s raise will help me to have a decent life by giving me fair compensation for my hard work. Relying largely on tips not only affects my dignity but also interferes with my service to customers, I have to fight for tips and to get tables. Tips vary from day to day and there are months in a year, especially during the winter-time, where there is no work available at all. And I’ve seen my female co-workers tolerate customers grabbing their legs, withholding tips till they get a server’s phone number, and worse in order to not ruin a tip.” – Ondre Anderson, Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY) member and restaurant worker.
“After months of demanding fairness in New York’s wage system, workers have won a great step toward being able survive on the wages that they earn. So many families have to live in uncertainty and fear, forced to choose between food or medicine or rent, and can’t work enough hours to even make ends meet. Raising the tipped wage will boost the quality of life for tens of thousands of working families.” – Karen Scharff, Executive Director, Citizen Action of New York.
“My faith that good things can happen in Albany when people step forward to be heard has been restored. Acting Commissioner Musolino’s order to increase the sub-poverty tipped wage from $5.00 to $7.50 is an unprecedented step in the right direction. Thousands lent their voices to the process through testimony, emails, and calls – and they made an impact. Next up, full elimination of the sub-minimum tipped wage. We will get there.” – Sara Niccoli, Executive Director, NYS Labor-Religion Coalition.
“Today’s victory is a major step forward in valuing women’s labor and the fight for wage equality. We’re thrilled that Governor Cuomo and Acting Labor Commissioner Musolino not only agree that no one should be forced to live off tips for the bulk of their income, but that the entire two-tiered wage system should be reviewed. New York’s announcement is just one piece of a national tide turning in favor of One Fair Wage.” – Saru Jayaraman, Co-Founder/Co-Director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United.
“A big and significant wage increase now and a pathway toward complete elimination of the sub-minimum wage are two strong steps forward for tipped workers, for the Department of Labor and for the Cuomo administration. People power made this happen, and we’re gratified that Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Musolino are listening to the people and moving our economy forward.” –Michael Kink, Executive Director, Strong Economy for All.
“The sub-minimum wage that tipped workers receive is truly antiquated, making tipped workers vulnerable to wage theft, sexual harassment and other abuse. Governor Cuomo’s announcement today is a critical step towards full elimination of the tiered wage system, and we celebrate that step. Hundreds of thousands of workers secured a $2.50 per hour raise today, and that is a big moment.” – Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director, Make the Road New York.
“Today’s victory in Albany is an example of the power that comes from workers coming together. After months of workers demanding fairness, acting Commissioner Musollino’s order to increase the wages of thousands of workers is a major victory for New Yorkers around the state. This is a significant first step in eliminating sub-minimum wage altogether, and sends a message that, when we all come together and fight for what’s right, our families win.” – Tony Perlstein, Campaigns Co-Director, Center for Popular Democracy.
“Workers shouldn’t have to rely on gratuities – literally, a gift from customers – as a wage. Today’s announcement means workers have a stronger base cash wage to rely on, and don’t have to rely on the vagaries of the shift they get or the generosity of patrons to make ends meet. And we hope that this is the first step toward full elimination of the sub-minimum wage.” – Tsedeye Gebreselassie, Senior Staff Attorney, National Employment Law Project.
#1FairWage, a coalition comprised of tipped workers, the National Employment Law Project, Make the Road New York, the Center for Popular Democracy, Fast Food Forward, New York State Labor-Religion Coalition, New York Communities for Change, ROC-NY, ROC-NY affiliate of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, Strong for All, United New York, Citizen Action New York, Tompkins County Workers Center, Worker Center of Central New York, Metro Justice, Coalition for Economic Justice, Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse (ACTS) and other community groups and advocates around New York State calling for the elimination of New York’s sub-minimum wage for tipped workers.