A bill filed earlier this year could raise Massachusetts' current $3 minimum wage for tipped workers to the standard minimum by 2022. Almost 100 restaurant workers, owners, advocates, and other people interested in this discussion were at the State House last month to hear more about the bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D - Pittsfield) and Sen. Pat Jehlen (D - Somerville), the Somerville Times reported.
In January, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts raised its tipped minimum wage to $3, from $2.63, and it's on its way to $3.75 by 2017, the Boston Globe reported. Regular minimum wage also increased to $9, and will top out at $11 in 2017.
For tipped employees, the law stipulates that if an employee does not make the standard minimum wage per hour after tips, employers are supposed to make up the difference. Boston.com reported earlier this year that that doesn't typically happen. For workers who make more than $9 in tips, employers often neglect to pay earned wages. The proposed law would prevent this form of wage theft, an advocate told Boston.com.
Joshua Lewin, co-owner of Bread & Salt Hospitality and the forthcoming Juliet, spoke up at the State House last month to advocate for the bill, saying his team is considering how best to compensate staff so they're not dependent on tips. "It is an important part of our business vision and essential for creating good, strong employment opportunities," he said, the Times reported.
The Just Crust, a pizza shop in Harvard Square, catered the June event and its owner also spoke in favor of the proposed bill. Along with her husband, attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan bought the former Upper Crust pizzeria in 2013, after the workers filed a lawsuit against their employers alleging wage theft. "This bill would provide needed protection for some of the lowest paid workers in our economy by guaranteeing them at least full minimum wage," she said.
Last summer, an Economic Policy Institute report indicated that 40 percent of restaurant employees are living in poverty. The White House indicated that women comprise 72 percent of all tipped employees nationwide, and in Massachusetts, that figure is 66 percent. Sen. Jehlen framed her argument for the bill as a family issue. "It’s hard for many people — let alone families — to break even when their financial security depends on getting good shifts and making good tips," she said.
Raising the minimum wage has been a hot-button topic all over the United States, and so far, seven states, including New York and California, have increased the tipped minimum wage or eliminated the two-tiered system altogether.
A timeline for the Massachusetts legislation hasn't been announced.