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ALBANY, NY (WENY) — While serving lunch to restaurant workers who traveled to the state capital from New York City, lawmakers announced reintroducing a bill that would phase out sub-minimum wages for tipped workers.
Restaurant workers in New York State currently earn 66% of the minimum wage before tips, and some lawmakers said that needs to change.
“We can’t leave our tip workers behind; we can’t leave our restaurant workers behind,” said Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas (D-Assembly District 34).
The bill would initiate a grant program for restaurants to afford raising the wages for workers. The bill would also allow for tips to be shared between workers in the front and back of the house at restaurants, which is currently illegal in the state.
Jennyfer Almanzar, an advocate and former bartender and server said phasing out sub-minimum wages would give tip workers a living wage.
“A living wage is to guarantee them a salary. I have come out of restaurants with twenty dollars. I made five dollars an hour. What is that? I’m coming home with like seven dollars an hour. So, we really need to end the sub-minimum wage,” she said.
And while advocates feel this legislation would give them the wages, they feel they need to survive, some restaurant associations feel the opposite.
“It’s making an assumption that the tipped employees are low paid when in fact tipped employees are some of the highest paid employees in the restaurant industry,” said Melissa Fleischut, President and CEO at the New York State Restaurant Association.
The New York State Department of Labor requires employers outside of New York City to pay food service employees an hourly cash wage of $8.80–plus a tip credit of $4.40.
If a tipped worker makes below the minimum wage, the restaurant or business is required to make it up under state labor law.
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s state executive budget due next week will hammer out the details of proposals like this one. Assembly Member González-Rojas said she is confident this legislation will be incorporated in Hochul’s budget.
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