Tipped workers may soon get a raise

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Tipped workers in New York could soon be getting a raise.

The State Wage Board is recommending tipped employees get a 50 percent increase in pay per hour. While some are jumping for joy, others are saying the increase will end up affecting consumers’ pocket books.

Tipped workers currently earn $5 an hour plus tips. But the State Wage Board wants wages to increase to $7.50 an hour beginning at the end of 2015. It’s a vote that could have a rippling effect.

“It would absolutely be devastating for restaurants,” Pres. of the NYS Restaurant Assoc. Melissa Fleischut said. “$7.50 came as a complete surprise to us today.

Fleischut said the increase wage will increase cost to owners and that money would have to come from somewhere.

“At a 50 percent increase, menu prices are going to have to go up,” she said.

Villa Valenti Pub owner Jerry Spiegel doesn’t think the raise is right.

“As far as making it $7.50 permanent, I don’t like it at all,” he said.

While Spiegel said his tipped workers make more than minimum wage by the end of the night, he feels for workers who are a part of large staffs.

“I don’t see how they could possibly make a decent income doing that,” he said.

Ashley Bedian is one of Spiegel’s bartenders. She has friends who work at large restaurants.

“I think that’s a really good thing,” she said.

Bedian’s been waitressing and bartending for several years.

“$5 an hour when you are not making a lot of tips is kind of ridiculous, but here we make enough tips that it doesn’t really faze us,” she said.

If the labor commissioner approves the recommendation, and the weekly average of wages and tips equals or exceeds the hourly minimum wage by 120 percent, then owners can pay the workers $1 less per hour.

“If this gets passed, I will definitely look into it,” Spiegel said.

Bedian said she makes more than minimum wage after she factors in tips. Fleischut believes the increase will also affect the back of house workers.

“Those employees can’t have any tips,” she said. “They can’t take any tips under New York State law.”

She thinks money that might go to them in wages will now go to the tipped employees.

“Every dollar you take and give to the tipped employees, you take from the back of the house,” Fleischut said.

There’s also the risk of reducing staff.

“Menu prices are going to have to go up,” Fleischut said. “I would think employee hours are going to have to get cut.”

The three-member board passed the recommendations by a split vote of 2-1. Before the commissioner makes his decision, there will be a public comment period for people to weigh in.

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