The Raise the Wage Act, a federal bill just introduced Thursday, will ensure all workers are paid a minimum wage of $12 an hour and phase out the unfair two-tiered wage system.
If passed, the federal tipped minimum wage — which has been frozen at $2.13 an hour since 1991 — will increase for the first time in almost a quarter century, going a long way toward ensuring restaurant workers are able to support themselves and put food on the table for their families.
“As a server, I’m surviving on the generosity of strangers which is scary,” said Moira Walsh, ROC member and current server in Rhode Island. “We deal with customers who are expected to pay our wages. I say expected because Lord knows tipping is not required. I live off tips and $2.89 an hour. There are days when I go home with less money than I owe my babysitter and I know I’m not alone. I need a paycheck that is reliable and consistent so that I can put food on the table for my family. A fair living wage would make the necessity a reality.”
Senator Patty Murray and Represenative Bobby Scott sponsored the bill. “Tipped workers are most exposed to the ups and downs of the economy” Senator Murray told ThinkProgress. “The unpredictability of wages makes it even more difficult to make ends meet, on top of trying to scrape by on low wages. So eliminating the tipped wage is long overdue. Washington state has led the way in this, and we’ve seen that it works for restaurants, businesses, and workers.”
If the minimum wage had kept up with productivity since 1968, it would be $18.42 today.
Members of RAISE, ROC United’s alternative restaurant association (Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment) support the Raise the Wage Act and ensuring ‘one fair wage’ for tipped workers.
“The subminimum wage is not sufficient,” said Lori Zito, President of Choices Cafe in Miami, Florida. “At Choices Cafe, we have always paid one fair wage, even though it is not mandated because we do not believe that our employees should have to depend on tips to live. As an organic restaurant whose food costs are at least twice as much as restaurants serving conventional food, we are proof that making ethical decisions in aspects of operations can still create a sustainable and successful business model. We support one fair wage — we always have. It’s the right thing to do.”
“We know from experience a minimum wage increase makes great sense for business,” said Paul Saginaw, co-founding Partner of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Since opening Zingerman’s Deli 32 years ago, we’ve grown to nine businesses employing 625 permanent staff with about $50 million in revenues. Paying entry wages our employees can live on has been important for our profitability and our annual compounded growth rate of 10 percent. Raising the minimum wage to $12 by 2020 would help break the cycle of wages holding too many working families in poverty and inject billions into the economy. We support efforts to create a level playing field that encourages employers to move toward raising wages for tipped workers as well.”
Nearly 40 million workers stand to benefit from passing this bill — that’s more than 1 in 4 workers. It will restore the minimum wage to its historic value, pump billions of dollars into the economy and ensure the dignity of a more fair and stable wage for millions of tipped restaurant workers.
American voters already support elimination of the subminimum wage by an overwhelming margin. According to recent national polling, 71% of the public favor eliminating the two-tiered wage system in favor of implementing one minimum wage for all workers. That support remains consistent among Democrats, Republicans and independent voters.
Through One Fair Wage, ROC United is currently spearheading efforts in several states and D.C. to eliminate the two-tiered wage system and ensure a fair minimum wage for all workers.