Last year we spoke with several minimum wage workers living and working in Brooklyn, most of them immigrants, primarily Spanish speakers, and holders of positions where earning decent money depended on the kindness of the people they were serving. Up until now, the sub-minimum wage standard in New York City held that employers could pay their workers as little as $5 an hour, as long as they were earning enough tips to round that number to $8 an hour. But today the Governor and head of the Department of Labor announced some groundbreaking changes to the state’s tipped minimum wage standards.
Though minimum wage, including the sub-minimum wage, has gone up steadily in New York state in recent years, labor activists and service industry workers argued that it was not enough. Governor Cuomo heard these frustrations and convened a Wage Board to travel across the state and hold hearings open to the public, where restaurant owners, workers, labor activists, researchers, service industry representatives, and anyone else invested in the matter could testify about their experiences with the tipped minimum wage.
Following the Wage Board’s recommendations, Commissioner of Labor Mario Musolino announced a variety of changes to the tipped minimum wage at a press conference today. Whereas previously the sub-minimum wage was dependent on the type of industry (hotel, service, food service), Musolino said that to avoid confusion there will now be one standard sub-minimum wage. He also announced that the overall tipped minimum wage would increase from $5.65 for restaurant and bar workers to $7.50 an hour. Though the increase will not be enacted until the end of 2015.
Labor union representatives who were present at the announcement voiced their support for the initiative, while Governor Cuomo also joined in praising the Department of Labor for its decision. Cuomo has also made promises to increase the general minimum wage to $10.50 an hour across the state and $11.50 an hour in New York City by the end of 2016.