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As Cuomo Prepares “Wage Board” Appointments, Fast-Food Workers and Women’s Leaders Call to End Sub-Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers

New report finds a “Wage Order” eliminating NY’s tipped sub-minimum wage would promote fair pay for working women and raise wages for 229,000 tipped workers across the state


Albany, NY – Marking a new front in the fight for fair pay for low-wage workers in New York, a new coalition of women’s leaders, fast-food delivery workers, and low-wage tipped workers across the state are calling for an end to the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers as the Cuomo administration prepares to appoint a Wage Board charged with recommending an increase in the state’s tipped sub-minimum wage.


On Thursday, fast-food delivery workers — joined by dozens of other low-wage tipped workers and supporters – will rally outside a Manhattan Domino’s to call for an end to New York’s tipped sub-minimum wage. Citing rampant wage theft, tipped workers will demand an administrative Wage Order that requires companies to directly pay tipped workers the state’s full minimum wage, with tips in addition.


“The public might think we do well, but the reality is that many times we don’t even get a tip,” said Alfredo Franco, a tipped Domino’s delivery worker from New York City. “Delivery fees are often confused with a tip for the drivers. We never see a penny of that. Many of us have to work 2 to 3 jobs just to get by, sacrificing everything including time with their families. We need a reliable income. The tipped minimum wage has to go.”


new report released Wednesday by the National Employment Law Project finds that a Wage Order eliminating the tipped sub-minimum wage would benefit an estimated 229,000 low-wage tipped workers in New York. With women making up more than 70 percent of the low-wage tipped workforce, this Wage Order would disproportionately benefit working women across the state and make meaningful progress in addressing the persistent gender pay gap in New York, where women earn just 83 cents for every dollar that men make.


“The poverty rate for waitresses is three times the rate for the American workforce as a whole. For this reason, the National Organization for Women is seeking to eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers. This pay inequality must end,” said Zenaida Mendez, President of the National Organization for Women of New York State.


“The sad thing about this is tip workers never get justice and the minimum wage is $5.00 is still not justice. Make justice right for tipped workers who are mostly women, raise the wage now that would be justice,” said Pamela Moore, a restaurant worker in New York City and Member of ROC-NY, affiliate of ROC-United.


“Living off tips is a grind and a hustle for me to feed and support my kids, not knowing what I will bring home. This hurts families. Looking at my kids’ faces makes me want to work harder to provide for them,” said Autumn Alston, Member of ROC-NY affiliate of ROC-United.


While New York’s minimum wage is schedule to rise to $9.00 per hour by Dec 31, 2015, the minimum wage for thousands of tipped food service workers remains stuck at just $5.00 per hour (tipped hotel workers earn slightly higher at $5.65 per hour) as the result of legislation signed by Governor Cuomo last year. Seven states across the country have already adopted the model policy of requiring employers to directly pay tipped workers the full minimum wage, and these states have effectively reduced poverty rates for tipped workers without slowing job growth in sectors such as the restaurant or hospitality industries.


“I have worked at different restaurants in New York City ever since I arrived here seven years ago,” said Manuel Romero Lopez, who is an immigrant from Nicaragua and member of Make the Road New York. “I used to work as a busboy for $5.00 an hour plus tips, but I was not earning enough to support myself and my family. It’s difficult to work for tips because we don’t have control over how much we take home at the end of the night, and we’re vulnerable to having our tips stolen from us. We work hard, and we should receive a raise in the minimum wage, just like the rest of New York’s workers.”


“Tipped restaurant workers serve and bus food all day, but we are often hungry. The customers I bus tables for aren’t the only ones who want healthy and nutritious food.  So do restaurant workers.  But on just $5, I can’t always afford to feed myself and my family,” said Carlos Tenemea, ROC-NY member and busser in NYC and Fire Island.


The demand for an administrative Wage Order ending New York’s tipped sub-minimum wage is supported by a broad coalition including Make the Road New York, Center for Popular Democracy, Fast Food Forward, Labor-Religion Coalition, National Employment Law Project, New York Communities for Change, ROC-NY, ROC-NY affiliate of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, Strong for All, United New York, and other community groups and advocates.


Rev. Brooke Newell, NYS Council of Churches said, “In my work with faith communities across New York state, I see that people are waking up to the fact that tipped servers aren’t just college students home for the summer.  They are parents who work hard, but can’t makes ends meet for their families.  Nobody should have to choose between their rent or their groceries.  It’s immoral that people who work full-time have to rely on our church food pantries because their income isn’t enough to meet their families’ basic needs.  New York can and must do better.”