The minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour. I repeat, $2.13. It's been frozen for well over 20 years, since 1991, but the minimum wage increase Democrats are pushing would increase it over a period of several years. So on Feb. 13—2/13—the Restaurant Opportunities Centers and a group of tipped workers were on Capitol Hill lobbying for the raise.
The push to raise the tipped worker minimum wage meets strong resistance from the restaurant industry, which has successfully prevented it from being included in recent increases to the basic minimum wage. And the restaurant industry is still at it:
"Tipped employees at restaurants are among the highest-paid employees in the establishment, regularly earning between $16 and $22 an hour," [National Restaurant Association spokesman Scott] DeFife said in an email. "Nobody is making $2.13 an hour.It's true that tips are supposed to raise workers to at least the basic minimum wage of $7.25. But while some servers do make good money, that's at higher-end restaurants. If you look across the country at the full range of restaurants in which workers are paid $2.13 an hour, the median wage for tipped workers is $8 an hour, including tips—which means half of tipped workers make less. One in five tipped workers across the country lives in poverty, a number that reaches one in four for people of color. And we know that raising the tipped worker minimum wage makes a difference: In states where the tipped worker minimum wage is higher, tipped worker poverty is lower.
The restaurant industry has had its way, keeping wages at poverty levels, long enough. It's time to raise the wage.