Restaurant workers and other tipped-wage employees in New York state have something to look forward to on New Year’s Eve -- a raise, and being the highest-paid tipped employees in the U.S.
Starting Dec. 31, tipped employees will receive a base pay of $7.50 an hour, up from the $5 an hour that servers make right now.
The increase was approved by the State Department of Labor. Other recommendations from Commissioner Mario Musolino include uniform tip amounts for all tipped employees -- who make $4.90, $5.00 and $5.65 depending on their position. The tipped wage was last increased in 2011.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who made the announcement at the Hotel and Motel Trades Council on Tuesday morning, said now that the economy and business are doing better, employees need to share in the rebound.
Cuomo also called on state legislators to increase the tipped minimum wage for New York City by an extra dollar to $8.50.
“If you work full-time … you cannot raise a family, you can’t pay for rent and food and insurance and healthcare on $18,000 in the city of New York,” said Cuomo of the yearly salary full-time minimum wage workers earn. Cuomo said the “concept of minimum wage” means workers can “live with dignity” and provide for their families.
Haitem Weslati, who owns Taszo Espresso Bar in Washington Heights, said the increase won’t immediately affect business, because his employees start at $8.50 an hour.
But, the next round of wage increases would be a “tremendous burden.”
“If everybody gets $9.50, I’m going to have to half my staff,” Weslati said. He currently employs about 10 people.
“Some of my employees are getting really good pay, and a good tip. If the minimum wage increases to more than $10, that's $17 or $18 with a tip. That’s quite a lot for standing at the register, with no skills whatsoever, to punch in items,” Weslati said.
“Most of the hourly money is eaten up by taxes,” said Zac Dunn, a server at David Burke Kitchen in SoHo.
Dunn said while the increase could be a big help to bussers and other workers, servers who have the potential to make hundreds of dollars in tips a night won’t care much about the hourly increase.
“It’s like gambling, some days are really good, some days are not so good,” Dunn said.
“In New York City servers often earn significantly more than minimum wage when accounting for their tips, that's why they are saying this $2.50 increase won't have a tremendous impact on their take home pay,” Andrew Rigie, executive director of New York City Hospitality Alliance, told Metro.
“However, for the restaurant owner, the $2.50 increase will have a serious financial implications on their business, in many cases adding hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in increased costs,” said Rigie. “Unfortunately, a lot of small business owners don’t have this kind of money.”
“It’s not that significant,” said a 10-year veteran bartender working Tuesday afternoon at Toby’s Public House in Little Italy, who said her first name was Candace. “Your check is pretty much nothing. That’s not much of an increase, but it’s a good attempt.”