Wage Board Recommendation Illustrates Progress Toward Fair Pay for All New Yorkers

Wage Board Recommendation Illustrates Progress Toward Fair Pay for All New Yorkers

Friday’s wage board announcement inches New York closer to creating one fair wage, but one provision may hinder progress for employees and employers across the state

New York, NY – In a important step forward for working New Yorkers, the state Wage Board voted Friday to increase the tipped minimum wage — frozen since 2011 — to $7.50 an hour, a raise of $2.50 an hour for the vast majority of New York’s 400,000 tipped employees. Notably, the board also called for a full review of the continued use of the two-tiered wage system, which permits employers to pay tipped workers a subminimum wage. Taken together, these proposals represent a progression towards achieving one fair wage for all New Yorkers. However, a controversial fifth proposal threatens to undermine these advances.

Last fall, State Labor Commissioner Peter Rivera convened a three-member wage board, comprised of public, labor and business representatives, to review and recommend changes to the regulations that govern wages for tipped workers in New York State.

As the wage board deliberated its recommendations over a nearly six month period, tipped workers, high-road employers, faith leaders and advocates called for One Fair Wage for all workers, tipped and non-tipped, describing the destructive impact of the separate, lower tipped minimum wage on New York’s majority female tipped workforce.

According to a poll released in early January, there is overwhelming bipartisan public support for increasing the tipped minimum wage to match the regular minimum wage, with 75% of likely voters in support of an increase. This consensus was clearly felt by the wage board on Friday.

Under the board’s proposals, all tipped workers' pay would be raised to a minimum of $7.50 an hour by the end of the year, and an additional $1 an hour in New York City (if the state legislature votes for a higher minimum wage for the City). The proposal also calls for a review of whether the current system of cash wages and tip credits should be eliminated altogether. Seven states - including the entire west coast and Nevada - require employers to pay the same minimum wage to both tipped and non-tipped employees.

Despite these proposals, the board endorsed an alarming and unprecedented provision that would effectively undermine potential advances in a two-to-one vote, calling for an additional $1.00 per hour “tip credit” if employers can prove that tipped workers earn 120% of the full minimum wage (or 150% in New York City). This addendum would roll back the proposed wage increase for workers and create an uneven playing field, enabling some employers to pay their workers less than the competition and adding complexities to an already cumbersome system.

Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United is confident that Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Musolino will protect working New Yorkers by continuing to build off of the first set of Wage Board recommendations, including a full review of the subminimum wage for tipped workers, and reject the potentially hazardous proposal to further complicate an already arduous system.

Friday’s Wage Board recommendation includes:

Consolidating various restaurant and hospitality tipped-worker categories into one classification;

Raising the state tipped minimum wage for restaurant and hospitality tipped workers to $7.50 per hour;

Raising New York City’s tipped minimum wage to $8.50 per hour should the legislature raise the City’s minimum wage;

Conducting a review of whether or not to eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped workers entirely and guarantee these workers the full minimum wage, as seven other states have done; and

Allowing employers that can demonstrate that their employees make more than 120% of the full minimum wage (or 150% of the full minimum wage in New York City) to take an additional tip credit of $1.00.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

NEW YORK STATE POLL: 75% of New York state voters support eliminating, lower tipped minimum wage

NATIONAL POLL: 71% of Americans support eliminating, lower tipped 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 over 13,000 worker-members across 26 cities in the US, winning 15 worker-led campaigns, totaling $8 million in stolen tips and wages.

Contact 

Contact: Anna Zuccaro, anna@fitzgibbonmedia.com, (914) 523-9145
Tim Rusch, tim@fitzgibbonmedia.com, (917) 399-0236