By Sen. Sherrod Brown
Last week, on February 13th, or 2-13, I introduced a resolution declaring the date as $2.13 Day. That’s because two dollars and thirteen cents is also the minimum wage for tipped workers. Two dollars and thirteen cents. Think about that.
To add insult to injury, the tipped minimum wage has not changed for more than 20 years, and its value has fallen by 36 percent in real terms.
It’s my hope that raising awareness on 2-13 will help remind people that it is past time to raise the tipped minimum wage.
Ohioans who work hard and take responsibility should be able to take care of their families. But too many people are working harder than ever and barely getting by, despite their best efforts.
That’s why I support the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in three 95 cent increments—then provide for automatic annual increases linked to changes in the cost of living.
The bill would also gradually raise the federal minimum wage for tipped workers from the current $2.13 an hour to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.
While Ohio’s current tipped minimum wage is $3.98 – higher than the federal minimum – it’s still not enough when we know that the majority of tipped employees are not teens.
They are men and women who once had good-paying factory jobs with benefits, and now work in low-wage positions with no benefits. And in the aftermath of the recession, the largest job growth has been in the service industry.
In fact, the restaurant industry is the largest employer of minimum wage workers. But we know that it’s also one of the lowest paid industries. Most tipped workers are not well-tipped fine dining servers. There’s a big difference between the tips at a Manhattan steakhouse and the local diner in Chillicothe.
Because most tipped employees depend on gratuities as their chief source of income, tipped workers are almost three times as likely to live in poverty.
To make matters worse, some tipped workers never see their earned gratuity – as some establishments divvy it up between servers and in some cases, never hand it over to those who earned it.
My wife, Connie, found this out a number of years ago after attending a few events at the same banquet center in Cleveland, before asking the clerk at the coat check who received the tips from the tip jar. She was hesitant to answer at first, but finally said that management keeps it.
Raising the tipped minimum wage supports our family members, friends, and neighbors trying to make ends meet on a meager paycheck and tips – whether they’re serving dinner at a restaurant, cutting hair, or bagging groceries.
It’s time to raise the minimum wage. Our workers can’t wait any longer.
Sherrod Brown is a United States Senator from Ohio.