Governor Cuomo Announces Major Increase to New York State’s Tipped Minimum Wage

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Governor Cuomo Announces Major Increase to New York State’s Tipped Minimum Wage

Cuomo calls for a $2.50 increase to the tipped minimum wage and review of two-tiered wage system, affecting a predominantly female workforce
Find today’s Order of Acting Labor Commissioner Musolino on the Report and Recommendations of the 2014 Hospitality Wage Board here: http://labor.ny.gov/workerprotection/laborstandards/pdfs/wage_board_order.pdf

Today, in an important step toward wage equality for the vast majority of New York State’s 400,000 tipped employees — a predominantly female workforce — Governor Cuomo will announce a $2.50 increase to the tipped minimum wage, raising it from $5.00 an hour, which it has been frozen at since 2011, to $7.50 an hour.

Nationally, tipped restaurant workers — more than 70% of which are women — are twice as likely to use food stamps than the general workforce and three-times as likely to live in poverty. Additionally, the EEOC has targeted the restaurant industry as the single largest source of sexual harassment charges, with a rate five-times higher than any other industry. A recent national survey revealed that 90% of tipped female restaurant workers experience sexual harassment on the job, demonstrating an underlying connection between the two-tiered wage system and the alarming frequency of sexual harassment throughout the restaurant industry.

“Today’s announcement is a victory for the thousands of New York women who have been demanding a more just and hospitable work environment in one of the fastest growing and largest economic sectors in the country — the restaurant industry,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-founder/co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United. “Although ROC will continue to fight for One Fair Wage, we are thrilled that New York State will have the 9th highest state wage for tipped workers in the country with $7.50 an hour, a feat that would’ve been impossible without our leadership and that of our allies across New York calling for One Fair Wage.”

The wage increase was among the suggested recommendations from the Cuomo-appointed New York Wage Board, convened last fall by the NY Labor Commissioner to review and recommend changes to the regulations that govern wages for tipped workers in New York State. Since public hearings began, Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United and allies have called for raising the tipped minimum wage up to match the full minimum wage, thereby eliminating New York State’s two-tiered wage system that causes problems for workers and employers alike.

“I am a full-time employee and homeless; today’s raise will help me to have a decent life by giving me fair compensation for my hard work,” said Ondre Johnson, ROC-NY restaurant-worker member and attendee of today’s announcement. “Relying largely on tips not only affects my dignity but also interferes with my service to customers, I have to fight for tips and to get tables. Tips vary from day to day and there are months in a year, especially during the winter-time, where there is no work available at all. And I’ve seen my female co-workers tolerate customers grabbing their legs, withholding tips till they get a server’s phone number, and worse in order to not ruin a tip.”

Significantly, in today’s announcement, Cuomo rejected the Wage Board’s controversial fifth proposal that called for an additional $1.00 per hour “tip credit” if employers could prove that tipped workers earn 120% of the full minimum wage (or 150% in New York City).

Cuomo also endorsed a review of whether the current system of cash wages and tip credits should be eliminated altogether. This is representative of a growing trend across the country of states that are considering eliminating the two-tiered system in favor of one, fair minimum wage.