News Story

Some 'Tipped' Restaurant Workers Say Don't Raise Our Minimum Wage

‘No restaurant can ever pay us in an hourly wage what we make in tips’

There isn’t an occupation in Michigan for which the average pay is less than $10 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The job category with the lowest average hourly rate in 2017 in this state was host or hostess in the food industry. Individuals in that job earned $10.00 an hour on average. The next lowest average hourly wage was for food preparation and serving at fast food restaurants, which was $10.08 an hour.

Waiters and waitresses earned $11.04 an hour on average.

In its current form, Michigan Senate Bill 1171 would raise the minimum wage from its current rate of $9.25 an hour to $12 an hour by 2030. The bill also would raise a separate and lower minimum wage for tipped workers from the previous law's $3.52 an hour to $4 per hour by 2030. (If tips don't bring a worker's total up to the regular minimum wage the employer has to pay the difference.)

The separate tipped rate for waiters and waitress has been a point of contention, with unions and other backers of an initiated law in Michigan seeking to eliminate it. But there are many tipped workers who support the separate rate.

“No restaurant can ever pay us in an hourly wage what we make in tips,” said Jennifer Schellenberg, president of Restaurant Workers of America, an organization which aims to preserve tipping.

Schellenberg claims that tipped employees would be hurt if the hourly wage for waiters and waitresses was raised to the minimum wage for other jobs.

Michigan law prescribes a tipped worker minimum wage that is 38 percent of the minimum wage as long as they receive and report enough in tips to raise their pay to at least the minimum wage.

If tipped employees make less than the regular minimum wage after tips are factored in, they can file a complaint with the state of Michigan and the employer has to reimburse the employee to raise that person’s pay to the minimum wage. Such employees have up to three years to file a claim.

From Oct. 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, there were 157 claims by employees alleging they didn’t make the minimum wage after receiving tips, according to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Federal statistics indicate there were 81,030 Michigan waiters and waitresses in 2017, plus 12,320 host and hostesses and 18,180 bartenders.