The federal minimum wage for tipped workers has been $2.13 since 1991. That pay rate tends to get lost in the larger debate over whether to raise the national minimum wage for nontipped workers, which is $7.25 an hour.
Under federal law, if tips dont bring employees up to the level of the standard minimum wage, employers are required to make up the difference.
But Saru Jayaraman, founder of the labor advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, tells NPRs Arun Rath that it often doesnt work out that way.
“Enforcement is not just difficult, its practically impossible for employers to have to count hour by hour to make sure that tips make up the difference for every worker for every hour theyve worked,” Jayaraman says.
And even if employers can ensure that tips make up the difference, Jayaraman says, that essentially creates a system in which the workers are living completely off the mercy and largesse of customers.
Jayaramans group advocates for eliminating the federal minimum tipped wage, so tipped workers earn the same as workers in other minimum wage industries.
But Scott DeFife of the National Restaurant Association says that could cost thousands of entry-level restaurant jobs that the economy desperately needs. He says there would be other consequences as well.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at For Tipped Workers, A Different Minimum Wage Battle : NPR.
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