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Workers in Brooklyn Who Rely on Tips Just Got Some Good News

A bill is under consideration that would phase out subminimum wage in the state over a three-year period
New York Attorney General Letitia James stands with members of One Fair Wage at press conference on Oct. 27.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has backed an effort led by One Fair Wage, an organization of more than 300,000 service workers who say their wages have dropped since the pandemic.

The coalition presented a report, One Fair Wage’s “Last Major Metropolis” survey, at a Friday, Oct. 27 press conference, alongside James and other New York policymakers. The report surveyed more than 2100 people between June 2022 and August 2023 and showed that employers in states like New York pay sub-minimum wages to restaurant servers and other positions that typically earn tips. 

If an employee’s tips do not bring them to their hourly minimum wage, employers are legally required to make up the difference. However, 47% of tipped workers said their tips with their wages did not bring them up to the full minimum wage required by the state, according to the survey.

“It’s a damn shame that New York City is one of the few major cities where tipped workers are paid less than the minimum wage,” James said. “It’s unacceptable, and it’s time that it changes.” 

Other speakers included State Sen. Robert Jackson, Assemblymember Tony Simone and Assemblymember Jessica Gonzales-Rojas.

New York Attorney General Letitia James backs One Fair Wage at Friday's press conference. Photo: Andrew Blustein for BK Reader.

Alaska, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington are the only states where tipped and non-tipped workers earn the same minimum wage. Last year, Washington, D.C. passed a law that will phase out tipped minimum wage in the nation’s capital, and Chicago policymakers passed a similar law in early October. 

“Workers in subminimum wage states like New York were twice as likely to not get unemployment insurance as workers in states like California,” said One Fair Wage President Saru Jayaraman. “Why? Because they were told your subminimum wage is too low, and tips don’t count toward the calculation.”

While 62% of respondents in subminimum wage states said they couldn’t secure unemployment insurance during the pandemic, the data suggests a disparity by race. Nearly 40% of white respondents said they couldn’t secure unemployment, but for Black respondents, that number jumped to 74%. 

Minimum wage in New York City is currently $15 an hour with it set to increase by a dollar each year over the next two years. A bill is under consideration that would phase out subminimum wage in the state over a three-year period, meaning tipped and non-tipped workers would be earning an equal amount by 2026. 

Current hourly tipped wage in New York City ranges from $10 to $12.50, depending on the industry. The national mark is $2.13 an hour.

“The people who literally put food on our tables at restaurants cannot put food on their own tables,” said Gonzales-Rojas, who is a sponsor of the bill.