Christopher Walker via Flickr Creative Commons
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie McGinty is calling for a minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour to include tipped workers — and she says she is the first candidate to do so.
"This issue has a particular impact on women, who represent 67 percent of restaurant workers," said McGinty in an e-mailed statement. "It's time that tipped workers receive the same minimum wage as every other worker in Pennsylvania. While employers are supposed to ensure that consumer tips bring every employee to the overall minimum wage, too often that often does not happen. Tipped workers, who often work several jobs to support their families, should be paid at least a minimum wage for the hard work they do."
For years, McGinty's mother worked evenings as a hostess at a Northeast Philadelphia restaurant.
Tipped employees — most working in food service — have a minimum wage of just $2.83 per hour in Pennsylvania, though employers must make up the difference if an employee's tips don't add up to the $7.25 regular minimum. Raising the state's tipped minimum wage would likely push tipped workers' pay higher.
(Some states require tipped workers to be paid at the regular minimum wage, while many mandate far less. Tipped workers in California, for example, are paid the same minimum as everyone else.)
In addition, labor advocates charge that employers frequently fail to make up for tips that fall below the minimum, or skim off of servers' tips.
The National Restaurant Association opposes raising the tipped minimum wage. "Many restaurateurs would be forced to limit hiring, increase prices, cut employee hours or implement a combination of all three to pay for the wage increase," according to a statement on its website. "Young people across the country look to restaurants for their first jobs. A mandatory wage increase could further restrict opportunities for young and less-skilled individuals."
But just 13 percent of tipped workers in Pennsylvania are under 20 years old.
Currently, 18 percent of tipped women workers live in poverty compared to just six percent of women workers over all, according to a 2013 report from the liberal Keystone Research Center. 78 percent of all tipped workers in the state are women. Half of all tipped workers in the state make less than $10 per hour.
State Sen. Tina Tartaglione (D-Phila.) and state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Phila.) have introduced legislation to raise the minimum wage to $9, and raise the tipped minimum wage to 70-percent of that. The push to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, backed by President Obama, would also raise the tipped minimum to just 70 percent.
Last year, McGinty had called for raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour. A campaign spokesperson said that McGinty raised her proposal to $10.10 because that has become the general consesus amongst advocates.
This is a crowded Democratic Party, with five candidates (plus two additional long shots) fighting to challenge unpopular Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in November, and too few policy distinctions. All candidates, especially those trailing frontrunners Allyson Schwartz and Rob McCord, must work hard to differentiate themselves.
Schwartz, Tom Wolf and John Hanger's campaigns tell City Paper that they support raising the minimum wage to $10.10, but raising tipped workers to just 70 percent of that. McCord's campaign says that they "support increasing the tipped minimum wage and plan to unveil our plan very soon." Corbett has indicated that he opposes any minimum wage increase, contending that it would hurt the state's economic recovery.
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