OPINION | Barry Richard: Tip Earners Demand Higher Sub-Minimum Wage
Most of the attention to minimum wage earners in Massachusetts has been paid to those with lower educational attainment levels and fewer skills. McDonald's and Walmart employees are often the poster children in the battle for a $15 minimum wage, but there are others, tipped employees, who are also looking for a bigger piece of the action as well.
Pending legislation that could find its way to the ballot this fall calls for a gradual increase in the minimum wage to $15 dollars, with future increases tied to inflation starting in 2022.
But waitstaff and others who rely on tips to make a living are demanding more, too. Currently earning $3.75 per hour sub-minimum wage, these so-called front of the house workers are seeking a $9 minimum.
The State House News Service says "state law requires restaurants to pay the difference when the $3.75 per-hour sub-minimum wage and a server's tips do not add up to the minimum wage."
SHNS quotes an email from Massachusetts Restaurant Association Director of Government Affairs Steve Clark, who says: "Servers are guaranteed minimum wage."
Clark says the sub-minimum issue can be misleading.
"Tipped employees are the highest earners in the restaurant. Often averaging more than 25 or 30 dollars per hour or more," he said. "Every time menu prices increase, the server gets an increase. Tipped employee wages increase at a much higher rate than any other restaurant employee."
One suggestion is to pay front of the house employees the same as the back of the house employees, and split the tips between all workers.
With the economy on fire and employers finding it difficult to fill positions, wages are rising rapidly. On their own. Without government intrusion. That's the way it should be.
Massachusetts currently has the highest minimum wage of any state in the nation. Let's let the marketplace, and not government, dictate how much private business pays its employees from this point forward.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.