July 11, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Struggling restaurant workers and other tipped employees whose incomes can be about as reliable as the payout from a nickel slot machine, hit the streets on Thursday, July 11th, calling for an end to the state’s sub-minimum wage of $5 an hour – and they hope Governor Andrew Cuomo is listening.
"My boss only pays me $5 an hour, and in order to survive and provide for my wife and two teenage daughters I have to hope that my tips are good — but this job is like gambling, where the house usually wins,” said restaurant worker Flavio Sanchez.
Sanchez is a member of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY), one of a number of worker advocacy groups, along with Make the Road, Center for Popular Democracy and others, who rallied on West 181st Street this week ahead of Cuomo’s appointment of a Wage Board, which could eliminate New York’s sub-minimum wage for tipped workers.
“Tipped restaurant workers serve and bus food all day, but we struggle to feed ourselves,” said fellow ROC-NY member Carlos Busser. “The customers I bus tables for aren't the only ones who want healthy and nutritious food – I’d also like to be able to eat well, but on $5, I can't always afford to feed myself and my family.”
Workers sharing the same grim reality, rallied in Albany on Wednesday, July 9th. Advocates are pressing Cuomo to convene the Wage Board and raise the minimum wage for tipped workers as part of the deal that is allowing the state to bump up the minimum wage for regular workers to $9 an hour by the end of next year.
Not surprisingly, the restaurant industry, is balking – and claiming that eliminating the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers will somehow sink many establishments throughout the state.
A new report by the National Employment Law Project report on New York’s sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, however, maintains that’s just bunk – and that restaurants in states that have already scrapped the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers are actually growing.
“As New York faces one of the worst economic inequality crises in the nation, it should put an end to the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers that leaves so many of our neighbors living in extreme poverty,” said Michael Stewart, executive director, United NY. “The minimum wage is already too low – allowing employers to pay below it does further damage to workers and our economy.”
It’s something that too many tipped workers in New York know only too well.
“I work hard, do a good job, and yet I don't know whether I will make enough to pay rent or feed my family,” Sanchez said.