Tips workers excluded from minimum pay deal

Workers who toil for tips, like waiters, are Workers who toil for tips, like waiters, are not covered under the new state deal on the minimum wage. (Feb. 2, 2013) Photo Credit: Yana Paskova

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Waiters, bellhops, car wash attendants and others who derive much of their income from tips won't see their base pay rise under a deal to boost the state's minimum wage to $9 per hour, officials confirmed yesterday.

Tipped employees currently receive base pay of between $4.90 and $5.65 per hour, depending on the type of work they do. If tips don't bring those earnings to the minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, then the employer has to make up the difference, according to the state Labor Department.

Some tipped workers had hoped the base pay would increase -- between $1.20 and $1.35 per hour -- as part of a minimum-wage deal struck by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the Assembly's Democratic majority and the State Senate's governing coalition. The exclusion drew fire Wednesday.

"Excluding tipped workers from the proposed plan is a huge oversight and ignores the needs of millions of New York workers," said Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a Manhattan-based advocacy group for eatery workers.

Restaurant Opportunities and the NY Minimum Wage Coalition held a rally, via Twitter, to press state leaders to reopen the wage deal, which is part of the 2013-14 budget. Last night, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said the issue was "still being discussed."

Earlier, Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx), who helped to negotiate the wage agreement, said, "If you're a waiter, you're not a minimum-wage worker because you get tips. So automatically you're beyond the minimum wage. . . . [and] if indeed you don't make enough in tips, then you're raised to the minimum wage. So it really isn't an issue."

Pay for restaurant workers is an issue on Long Island as the federal labor department cracks down on wage abuses.

Nearly half of the 180 federal court orders for wage violations nationwide from Oct. 1, 2011, through Sept. 30, 2012, involved eateries in Nassau and Suffolk counties. About 22,000 Long Islanders were employed as waiters and waitresses in early 2012, according to the most recent available data from the state Labor Department.

Many are Hispanic immigrants, said Deborah Axt, of the immigrant rights' group Make the Road New York. Not changing base pay "for tipped workers like car washers, busboys and delivery workers, many of whom are already living below the poverty line, is unacceptable and disproportionally impacts Latinos," she said.

With Carrie Mason-Draffen

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