Contact: Maria Myotte, maria [at] rocunited [dot] org

Seattle City Council Min Wage Vote Leaves Leaves Tipped Workers Behind
Lobbyist-led compromise includes “training wage” and other major minimum wage carve outs

Seattle, WA — Yesterday, the Seattle City Council subcommittee voted unanimously to advance a $15 minimum wage proposal, albeit with major carve outs. The final vote is expected next week.

While a huge step forward, this proposal comes with major setbacks advanced by big business and the Washington Restaurant Association.

-If the ordinance were passed as is, Seattle would become the first city in U.S. history to introduce a sub-minimum wage where it has been abolished statewide, raising problematic legal issues.

-The proposal’s incorporation of both a “training wage” and allowances for ‘total compensation’ (employers could deduct health care, transportation stipends, and even job training from the minimum hourly wages they’d be required to pay) ensures that a $15 minimum wage applies to the least number of people possible.

-A tip penalty legalizes a lower wage for this largely female workforce, thereby perpetuating legal wage discrimination and an environment in which women must tolerate all kinds of sexual behavior to earn the bulk of their wages. In fact, 37 percent of all sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC are from women employed in the restaurant industry, making it the single largest source of sexual harassment claims.

-Seattle’s current median wage for tipped workers including tips is less than $11 an hour. A tip penalty is a step backward, setting Seattle up to emulate troubling national statistics for tipped workers: they suffer from three times the poverty rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce and use food stamps at double the rate.

-A tip penalty will undermine the potential of the economic stimulus by dragging down the wage floor. Washington is one of seven states to have completely eliminated the separate sub-minimum wage for tipped workers; all of which have above average employment growth.

Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, submitted a letter to each subcommittee member yesterday making the case against the introduction of a tip penalty. Find that letter here.


Co-founded by labor rights leader 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 members across 26 cities in the US, winning 13 worker-led campaigns, totaling $7 million in stolen tips and wages.