Will waitresses finally get a minimum wage hike?

The federal base pay for workers receiving tips has been stuck at $2.13 for 22 years. President Obama wants to change that.

By Aimee Picchi Apr 25, 2013 12:30PM

Care © Moxie Productions/Blend Images/Getty ImagesWaitresses and waiters are hoping a proposal from President Barack Obama will change an aspect of their jobs they say has grown way, way stale: the "tipped minimum wage."

This wage, which is significantly lower than the regular minimum wage and applies to professions relying on tips, hasn't budged in 22 years. The federal government requires restaurants, hotels and other employers to pay just $2.13 an hour for workers who rely on gratuities. 

While most states require a higher tipped minimum wage, 13 states rely on the federal level, Bloomberg reports. As part of Obama's plan to increase the federal minimum wage to $9, he's also calling for a boost to the tipped-wage base, although his proposal hasn't spelled out specifics. 

Another bill was introduced last month by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., which proposed a gradual increase to the tipped minimum wage. 

Their plan, which also would raise the base federal wage to $10.10 an hour from its current $7.25, would increase the tipped minimum wage to $3 an hour and then boost it by 95 cents each year until it reaches 70% of the full wage. Currently, the tipped wage is just 29% of the federal minimum pay rate.

But some critics say that by boosting the tipped wage, businesses already struggling with thin margins will cut jobs. The National Restaurant Association doesn't support Harkin and Miller's bill, telling Bloomberg it might stifle hiring plans. The group's voting directors include executives from McDonald's (MCD), Walt Disney's (DIS) parks and resorts, and Darden (DRI), which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster. 

One former waitress, Gina Deluca, writes on her blog, Wiser Waitress, that the $2.13 wage is "mean" and results in servers increasingly living in poverty. She writes that 19.3% of waitresses and waiters earning the minimum tipped wage live in poverty. 

One economist tells Bloomberg that the tipped wage has been stuck at $2.13 because it has fallen off the radar. 

"This wage has been kept at this rate for 22 years while the prices of everything else have been going up," said Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist at the University of California Berkeley. "I believe it was stuck at $2.13 because people don't know about it. There is an education that goes on, and I think it matters."

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi

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Apr 25, 2013 4:02PM
Where did the nonsense of tipping come from anyway?
The restaurants expect the customer to subsidize the wages of their employees.
Apr 25, 2013 6:03PM
While agree that servers should make more, please tell me why his concerns are with raising servers wages, but lowering military pay and benefits? Mixed up priorities maybe?
Apr 25, 2013 3:03PM

I was a server for many years and have conflicting emotions about this.  Just because their base hourly rate hasn't increased, doesn't mean they aren't making more money.  As the price of menu items increase and people tip that 15-20% of the total for the meals, then the tips have increased along with the increase in the price of menu items.  I don't think they should increase by much.  Some servers make a great deal on tips if they work at a nice restaurant and others don't make much if they work at the buffet style restaurants or coffee shops.  Not all server jobs are equal.


Probably not possible but if they could pay a sliding hourly rate based on the type of restaurant or the type of service provided, it would be better.  When I was waiting tables 30+ years ago, I didn't really care about the hourly rate since it was such a small portion of my overall pay.



Apr 25, 2013 4:15PM

Waiters at casual dining restaurants on average make between $17-$25 an hour in tips alone! That doesn't include their $2 an hour wage.  On top of that most don't declare all their tips so they are making plenty of money. Sure there are slow days, but when you factor it in over the course of a week or month, waiting tables is one of the most lucrative "blue collar" professions available.  I've waited tables for many years at all kinds of casual restaurants and diners.  I've also managed restaurants for many years.  When I managed, I can tell you many times my waiters would wind up making more money than me on some nights! So yeah, this is just another example of an uninformed president sticking his nose into an industry he knows nothing about.  Same goes for anybody on here claiming this is a good thing. Restaurants are already clawing to stay in business with the new Obamacare costs.  A min wage hike would literally result in countless restaurant closings and layoffs, and as a result so many of those waiters that were making $20 an hour before Obama will be making zip.

Apr 25, 2013 4:16PM

Obama, people will just tip less...................Duh

Apr 25, 2013 4:13PM

Ok, at one point I agree with the wage for waiters going up, but the tip thing is getting overrated. I went to Redlobster. We spent over $100 on the meal and didn't even stay an hour.  Now if you are supposed to tip 15%, that is $15.00 for a tip.  Now even if they have two tables per hour (which it is likely they have more) that is $30 per hour that they just made. So my question is how is $30 per hour poverty? 


Now I know that in most of the fast food that they pay at least the regular minium wage or better because most people won't leave a tip when they have to serve theirselves or take their own trash to the bins.


Now my point is if they are going to raise minium wage for waiters, they should raise it to the regular wages and let the customer deside if the waiter was nice enough to get extra.  That is what the other places that you tip do (example: Carwashers, Drycleaners, Hairdressers, etc.).  No matter where you work you are going to get people that don't tip no matter how good you are. That's life. I used to wait tables and was paid the minuim wage for a waitress and if I was nice I usually got a good tip. I don't believe it should be exspected of someone to leave a tip. It should be based on how well you did your job.

Apr 25, 2013 3:14PM
tip your servers fairly. it's the right thing to do.
Apr 25, 2013 3:45PM
I have always said tips should be for good and deserved service and that resturaunts should have to pay their waitresses, bus boys/girls minimum wages.  It isn't fair for these people to have to live off of their tips.  Some people cannot afford to give a large tip some can.  The resturaunts are definately charging enough in most places to be able to pay them more than $2.19??? per hr.  It has never been fair for these servers.
Apr 25, 2013 3:35PM
This will hurt their tips.  Servers get tipped because the customers know that most of their server's income comes from what must they leave on the table.  If this minimum wage goes up, the prices go up as well.  And the justification for the tip goes away.
Apr 25, 2013 3:38PM
What happens when the employer can't afford to pay 9 and has to lay off employees? Many of these employees would probably rather make 7.25 than 0. If an employer and an employee can agree on a wage, why does the government need to get involved at all? What happened to letting the market decide? Are you making do with your current wage? What if the government decided to raise minimum wage over what you are currently making and your employer had to lay you off? Your employer wants to keep paying you what you currently make, and you are willing to keep working for what you currently make, but the government wont let you, so you get fired (now you make nothing and are worse off) and your employer is paying more for fewer employees (also worse off). Why don't people understand that?
Apr 25, 2013 6:22PM

Even with the low base pay, it's obviously still a good enough gig to draw in employees. My old roommate used to pull in $45K/yr serving at Red Lobster. I was fresh out of college as a Chemist making $25K/yr. Made me feel kind of like a sucker.

Apr 25, 2013 5:59PM
Gina Deluca, writes on her blog, , that the $2.13 wage is "mean" and results in servers increasingly living in poverty. She writes that 19.3% of waitresses and waiters earning the minimum tipped wage live in poverty.

then get a better f'in' job, dumba$$.
Apr 25, 2013 6:17PM
A) I work part time as a waitress and make $8.00/hour BEFORE tips.  Does anybody REALLY make the $2.13 minimum. B) Weren't tips originally meant as a "good job" and not as a subsidy so the restaurant doesn't have to pay as much? C)  Obama wants to raise the wage for wait staff (probably significantly) but only proposes a 1% raise for the troops?   
Apr 25, 2013 2:19PM
So does this mean the expected % of tip I need to give would go down? Prob not ...
Apr 25, 2013 6:31PM
It would also be nice if Obama's team came up with a way to ensure all tips would be counted as income.  All US workers should pay their fair share of taxes, regardless of the source.   
Apr 25, 2013 2:31PM

Law makers, it don't work that way. The waitresses and waiters and other employees who work for less than minimum wage at restaurants have to report how much tips they make daily to make up for their wages. Their taxes are taken out of that $2.15 per hour so basically they get no paycheck at the end of the week. A good attendee would make a good living, but if you are just starting out as a server, then you may be lucky to clear minimum wage. When I went to college, I had such a job. I must admit that I was good at that. However, the tips wasn't good and there were a lot of dead beat patrons who would rather bite their hands off than to tip for good serve. Then at one time (another place and time in my life) I made good tips for not having a minimum wage.

The idea is that the owners of restaurants don't want to have to divvy up a servers wage to minimum if they don't make enough in tips to cover it. I went one restaurant (Barnhill's) in Hattiesburg, MS that you paid the meal before you ordered and they also included a tip, then the server expected a tip. I will never suggest eating at a place where I had to pay for the whole meal unless it is a buffet before ordering. The food was not good, and they overcharged for it. Then the server got mad because we didn't tip again.  Don't eat at Barnhill's.

Apr 25, 2013 2:23PM
Its about time!! Servers are the ONLY tipped profession penalized with low wages. Think about  it... hairdressers, cab drivers, baggage handlers, the list goes on. These professions that are tipped and earn at least minimum wage and not required to claim their tips. What's wrong with this picture? Servers MUST claim a percentage of their sales as tipped income whether they earn that amount or not. That with 2.35 an hr. I believe these people live in poverty. Yet everyone wants to be waited on!!
Apr 25, 2013 5:53PM
Waitresses do not have a Lobby that is why Congress singled them out and attacked them many years ago and demanded and got their tips taxed whether they got them or not. If the Government or Obama gets the chance they will be screwed again I am sure
Apr 25, 2013 6:12PM
The more it costs someone to do something, the less they'll do it. This applies to employment as well. If you raise the cost of buying labor, employers buy less labor. Econ 101 people.
By the way... who is the government to tell me what wage I can and can't work for? If I am willing to work at Walmart at $5 an hour that's my own business.

Apr 25, 2013 6:54PM
Obama just wants to continue to ruin our country
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