Today, the three-member Wage Board appointed by Governor Cuomo to recommend changes in New York’s $5.00 sub-minimum wage for tipped workers issued its recommendations.
By a 2-to-1 vote, the Board recommended:
1. Consolidating various restaurant and hospitality tipped worker categories into one category;
2. Raising the state tipped minimum wage for restaurant and hospitality tipped workers to $7.50 per hour;
3. Raising New York City’s tipped minimum wage to $8.50 per hour should the legislature raise the City’s minimum wage;
4. Doing a review of whether or not to eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped workers entirely and guarantee these workers the full minimum wage, as 7 other states have done.
These recommendations are long overdue, common-sense proposals that will raise wages for 229,000 servers and hospitality industry workers around the state, who are disproportionately women and who suffer from more than double the poverty rate of the workforce as a whole.
However, the Board also endorsed, by a 2-to-1 vote, a misguided recommendation to allow employers that can demonstrate that their employees make more than 120% of the full minimum wage (or 150% of the full minimum wage in New York City) to take an additional tip credit of $1, meaning that their workers’ tipped minimum wage would rise only modestly to $6.50 per hour. In other words, tipped workers who earn more than just $10.80 per hour statewide (120% of New York’s minimum wage of $9 as of December 31, 2015) or $13.50 per hour in New York City would be penalized with a lower tipped minimum wage.
This final recommendation is without precedent nationally and undermines the Board’s other recommendations. It is nothing more than a subsidy to more profitable restaurant employers, would be extraordinarily difficult to enforce, and by imposing this lower sub-minimum wage for workers of these employers, guts the Board’s other recommendations to increase the tipped minimum wage to $7.50 per hour (and $8.50 in NYC) and would continue to keep tens of thousands of tipped workers in New York State in poverty.
This final recommendation would also be very difficult to enforce, and undoes the significant progress that the other recommendations would make in simplifying for employers and workers New York’s complex tipped wage system.
Under the Wage Board process, Governor Cuomo and his Commissioner of Labor are charged with independently evaluating the board’s recommendations and modifying them if appropriate. We urge Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Musolino to reject the Board’s damaging and unprecedented fifth recommendation, in order to deliver a meaningful increase for New York’s tipped workers.
#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 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.