FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MARCH 3, 2015
Contact: Maria Myotte, maria@rocunited.org, 720 352 6153

March Brings Major Developments on ‘One Fair Wage’ Legislation as States Move on Increasing or Eliminating Sub-Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers

Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United’s ‘One Fair Wage’ Campaign Kicks Off Women’s History Month Poised to Make Historic Changes for the Majority-Female Tipped Workforce

Thursday: Connecticut Legislators to Hold Hearing on Tip Credit Elimination Bill, joining Six States Currently Debating “One Fair Wage” Legislation

Just days after Governor Cuomo announced a momentous 50% increase to New York State’s tipped minimum wage, raising it from $5.00 to $7.50 per hour by the end of this year, Connecticut’s Joint Labor and Public Employees Committee will hold a hearing on March 5 about its bill to raise the tipped subminimum wage of $5.78 to match the state’s full minimum wage, currently $9.15 per hour.

In November, raising the minimum wage was one of Election Day’s biggest winners with Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota and Nebraska passing ballot measures to raise wages for workers. Now several additional states are turning their attention to the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, which has been frozen at $2.13 an hour on the federal level since 1991, positioning March as a historic month for tipped workers in their fight against income inequality.

Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, and New Hampshire are expected to hold public hearings for legislation that would eliminate the subminimum wage. In Pennsylvania, the legislature is advancing bills that would significantly increase the tipped minimum wage, while Michigan is expected to introduce legislation to eliminate the sub-minimum wage as early as this month.

Seven states, including Alaska, California, Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Montana, and Nevada have already eliminated the lower, tipped minimum wage.

Nationally, tipped restaurant workers — a predominantly female workforce — use food stamps at double the rate of the rest of the US workforce and are three-times as likely to live in poverty. Female tipped restaurant workers also endure the worst sexual harassment of any industry with 90% reporting experiencing sexual harassment on the job. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has targeted the restaurant industry as the single-largest source of sexual harassment charges with a rate five-times higher than any other industry.

The states below are moving forward with legislation to eliminate the lower, tipped minimum wage:

Connecticut

  • Tip credit elimination bill would increase the current sub-minimum wage of $5.78 to match the regular minimum of $9.15 — hearing to take place this Thursday, March 5th
  • Cosponsors: Sen. Gary Winfield and Rep. Peter Tercyak
  • According to the American Community Survey (ACS), 66.2% of CT’s tipped workers are women

Massachusetts

  • Tip credit elimination bills introduced in House and Senate to increase current sub-minimum wage of S3.00 on a yearly basis until it reaches the general minimum wage.
  • Sponsors: Sen. Patricia Jehlen and Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier
  • 65.8% of MA’s tipped workers are women (ACS)

Rhode Island

  • Tip credit elimination bills introduced in House and Senate to increase current sub-minimum wage of S2.89 on a yearly basis until it reaches the general minimum wage.
  • Sponsors: Rep. Aaron Regunberg and Sen. Gayle Goldin
  • 68.6% of RI’s tipped workers are women (ACS)

New Hampshire

  • House bill to raise current sub-minimum wage of $3.27 to match a higher proposed regular minimum of $14.50. NH’s current minimum wage is $7.25.
  • Sponsor: Rep. Jackie Cilley
  • 75.2% of NH’s tipped workers are women (ACS)

Maryland

  • Senate bill to increase current sub-minimum wage of $3.63  to match regular minimum wage.
  • Sponsor: Sen. Richard Madaleno
  • 63.1% of MD’s tipped workers are women (ACS)

Michigan

  • Likely to introduce a bill in the Senate to increase current sub-minimum wage of $3.10  to match the regular minimum wage.
  • Cosponsors: Sen. Coleman Young II and Sen. Jim Ananich
  • 75.2% of MI’s tipped workers are women (ACS)

Pennsylvania

  • House bill that would raise the current sub-minimum wage of $2.83 to 75% of a $10.10 minimum wage, Senate bill would raise sub-minimum wage to 70% of $10.10
  • Cosponsors: Rep. Patty Kim and Sen. Christine Tartaglione
  • 70.2% of PA’s tipped workers are women (ACS)

“After years of work led by ROC, we’re seeing an unprecedented level of activity to do more than simply increase the tipped minimum wage, but get rid of the two-tiered wage system entirely,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-founder/co-director of ROC United. “Poverty wages, rampant sexual harassment, and wage theft are endemic to the two-tiered wage system; the public, electeds, and even restaurant owners understand that and want to change how tipped workers are paid. ‘One Fair Wage’ bills will ensure that all tipped restaurant workers, mostly women, no longer have to live shift-to-shift off tips alone and feel forced to put up with sexual harassment, and instead, get paid the living wage they deserve and need to support their families and put food on the table.”

A recent national poll shows that 71% of the Americans support eliminating the two-tiered wage system and paying all workers the full, minimum wage. Increasingly, restaurant owners across the country — including in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts — are voluntarily instituting alternatives to the two-tiered wage system to ensure that their employees earn a more dependable wage, rather than being forced to live off tips alone.

Women’s rights leaders and organizations agree that eliminating the two-tiered wage system is an issue of gender-justice; several renowned feminists, including Eve Ensler (Tony Award winning playwright, founder of V-Day and One Billion Rising), Terry O’Neill (President of National Organization for Women), Teresa Younger (CEO of the Ms. Foundation), and other leading women’s rights advocates convened at Olive Garden in Times Square on February 13th, a national day of action led by ROC United to highlight the federal tipped minimum wage being frozen at $2.13 an hour, to demand all restaurants pay an actual living wage.

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Co-founded by leading workers’ rights advocate Saru Jayaraman (“One of the top 50 most influential people in the restaurant industry” – Nation’s Restaurant News) ROC United has grown to over 13,000 worker-members across 26 cities in the US, winning 15 worker-led campaigns, totaling $8 million in stolen tips and wages.