New eatery wage board in NYS budget bill

Food service workers who receive tips could potentially

Food service workers who receive tips could potentially see their incomes rise under a last-minute deal on the state budget. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

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Waiters, busboys and other food service workers who receive tips could potentially see their incomes rise under a last-minute deal on the state budget, officials confirmed last night.

The agreement calls for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to appoint a wage board to examine the adequacy of the base pay of tipped employees at restaurants and other food providers. The board could recommend the state labor commissioner hike the wage rate unilaterally without the approval of the State Legislature.

The wage board would not meet until next year. In the past, some New York workers' wages have been boosted via wage boards.

The deal is included in a budget bill for education, labor and family assistance, part of legislation being voted on this week in Albany.

Food service workers were excluded from a planned increase in the state's minimum wage to $9 per hour by the end of 2015, which is also in the budget. Others such as car wash attendants, bellhops and delivery workers will see their base pay increase.

Asked about the wage board, Michael Whyland, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), said, "This is about the value and dignity of work. We are pleased that we have come to an agreement that will put much-needed cash in the pockets of working men and women."

Silver has long championed a boost in the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and indexing future raises to the inflation rate. Indexing isn't included in the budget.

Republicans who control the State Senate, in partnership with independent Democrats, emphasized last night that the budget agreement doesn't provide a wage increase for tipped food-service workers.

A Cuomo spokesman could not immediately provide comment.

Base pay is a floor, not a ceiling, on worker earnings. Tipped employees currently receive base pay of between $4.90 and $5.65 per hour depending on the type of work they do. Those in food service have a $5 base.

If tips don't bring a worker's earnings to the minimum rate, then the employer has to make up the difference, according to the state labor department.

Make the Road New York, an immigrant-rights group with an office in Brentwood, praised the expected appointment of a wage board.

The group's co-executive director, Deborah Axt, said, "The final budget package includes a path to win an increase for all workers."

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