Tipped workers to receive pay increase by end of 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Tipped workers in the state of New York will receive a 50 percent increase in pay beginning at the end of 2015.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration announced the pay bump on Tuesday after the wage board recommended it last month. The current hourly wage is $5 per hour for tipped workers such as waiters, waitresses, bartenders and hostesses. But by December 31, the pay will increase to $7.50 per hour.

For some, the raise is a life line.

“Well, honestly, it sucks for me,” John Hayer said. “They pay me minimum wage, and my tips are terrible.”

Hayer moved to New York from California and works 42 hours a week. He said he spent the last few months living in homeless shelters. He just recently moved into an apartment.

“It’s not really a good time for me, and I’m struggling trying to get my apartment and stuff,” he said.

He said a paying job is what’s keeping him going.

“I just got my job back, and everything is kind of looking up,” Hayer said.

Its workers like Hayer that the state hopes will benefit from the wage increase. But while Hayer is happy, others are not.

“We are terribly concerned for the restaurant industry,” Pres. and CEO of the NYS Restaurant Assoc. Melissa Fleischut said. “It’s such a high increase that they are going to have to raise menu prices as much as the market will bear, but that won’t take care of all of it.”

Fleischut said businesses are likely going to have to protect the bottom line.

“Increase menu prices, cutting hours, some layoffs, no future hires,” she said.

Thurman Jones thinks the workers deserve the increase. As a patron, he said he would still tip workers what they deserve despite them making more per hour.

“If they do their job, they get their tip,” he said.

The state, however, will wait to see if the industry shirks because of the extra cost to owners.

“Some have said that they will have to change their business model,” Fleischut said. “Some have said that they have to close.”

But it’s good news to Hayer.

“I think that that’s freaking amazing,” he said. “It will definitely help out my situation for sure. It feels amazing just knowing that I can get back on my feet here in New York.”

Restaurant owners are entitled to a bit of an opt out.

If the weekly average of wages and tips for an employee equals or exceeds the hourly minimum wage by 120 percent, then the owner can pay the workers $1 less per hour.

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