For Immediate Release: June 2, 2015
Contact: Maria Myotte, maria@rocunited.org, 720 352 6153

Michigan Legislators Introduce Bill to Eliminate Separate, Lower Wage for Tipped Workers

‘One Fair Wage’ Bill Would Raise Wages for 161,000 Tipped Workers From $3.10
to Full Minimum Wage

Lansing, MI — Today State Senator Coleman Young and State Representative Pam Faris will introduce crucial legislation that would phase-out Michigan’s  two-tiered wage system by raising the tipped minimum wage from $3.10 to regular minimum wage of $8.15.

As a result of Michigan’s abysmally low tipped minimum wage of $3.10 an hour, tipped workers in Michigan — 75% of which are women — live in poverty at three-times the rate of other workers in the state. In fact, seven of the ten lowest paying jobs in the state are restaurant jobs.

“No one can live off $3.10 and tips,” said Alicia Farris, Director of Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan. “The lower, separate minimum wage for tipped workers is unfair and problematic – it exacerbates sexual harassment and discrimination, and because living off tips is incredibly unstable, tipped workers deal with major obstacles like not being able to produce proof of stable income for rental applications. ROC commends Sen. Young and Rep. Faris’ leadership in prioritizing the families of Michigan’s tipped workers by fighting for one fair wage.”

A recent national survey by ROC United and Forward Together shows that 90% of women tipped restaurant workers experience sexual harassment at work.

“I cannot support myself on $3.10 an hour. No one can,” said Naomi Debebe, member of ROC-MI and tipped worker for several years. “Because I’ve had to live off tips instead of a fair wage, I know what it’s like to choose between bills and groceries. Too often, my take-home pay depended on being polite to customers who were hitting on me or groping me. Getting paid a stable and fair minimum wage would make it easier for tipped workers to put food on the table and take care of their families without being vulnerable to all the unfair and uncomfortable situations that come with being forced to live off tips instead of a fair wage.”

This bill is the latest development in ‘One Fair Wage’, a national and multi-state campaign spearheaded by Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United to eliminate the two-tiered wage system and establish one, fair minimum wage for all workers.

With a historic amount of states introducing ‘one fair wage’ legislation and the recently introduced federal bill, “Raise the Wage Act,” including total elimination of the federal tipped minimum wage — frozen at $2.13 an hour since 1991 — 2015 has been a major year for tipped workers. If passed, Michigan would join seven states that have already eliminated the two-tiered wage system.

“At YUM Village, we don’t have a sub-minimum wage for tipped worker because we know that treating workers well and running a successful business go hand-in-hand,” said Godwin Inentuge of YUM! Village. “We start servers at $10.10 an hour — almost three-times more than Michigan’s sub-minimum wage. We have five locations, and we’re growing. And as a member of RAISE (Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards in Employment), YUM Village is just one of a growing number of restaurant employers across the country that champion success through living wages and treating workers fairly.”

National polling shows that 71% of the Americans support eliminating the two-tiered wage system and paying all workers the full, minimum 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 close to 14,000 worker-members across over 30 cities in the US, winning 15 worker-led campaigns, totaling $8 million in stolen tips and wages.