Article contributed by the NYS Restaurant Association
Making a statement of intention and building momentum for your side is important at the beginning of any fight. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the great college basketball games we have seen over the last month or the opening statements of trial. The side that starts on the front foot has a good chance of winning.
This brings us to the first hearing the Department of Labor will be holding on the possible elimination of the tip credit. Originally, these hearings were slated to begin in mid-March in Syracuse and Buffalo. However, due to a scheduling conflict, both of these hearings were shifted until the end of April, which makes Farmingdale, Long Island the home of the first hearing on April 20. It can’t be emphasized enough how important this first hearing will be in terms of building momentum and making it crystal clear to both the Department of Labor and Governor Cuomo that the tip credit is an economic tool that the restaurant industry needs to survive.
There are a lot of misconception supporters of eliminating the tip credit they would like you to believe. For example, they like to often say that tipped workers are being paid a subminimum wage. That is a lie. All restaurant workers are guaranteed to make the minimum wage. The tip credit grants restaurants a small break on labor costs ONLY if tipped employees are making up the difference between the credit and the minimum wage with their tips. If those workers are not making enough to bring them to the baseline level of minimum wage, the restaurant is mandated by the Department of Labor to make up that difference. This situation almost never occurs as bartenders, servers and other tipped restaurant employees are the highest paid workers in every restaurant.
Simply put, if the tip credit were to be eliminated restaurants all over the state will be forced to make very difficult decisions. If this happens, labor costs would dramatically increase putting a startling amount of economic pressure on an industry that has consistently subsisted on razor thin profit margins. Owners and operators would be forced to accept a new reality – less staff, scaled down menus, and substantially increasing prices would only be the beginning. Every customer and worker would have to get used to a different dining experience both in terms of service and cost.
All of this speaks to the importance of the hearing on April 20. The only way for us to win this battle is to show up, as an entire industry, and as one voice, express our concerns over this overreaching proposal.
Tipped restaurant employees are not asking for this change. But as an industry, talking to each other about how misguided this approach is, isn’t enough. We need to be as active as we have ever been. We need both owners and staff to turn up at these hearings with signs and testimony in numbers so great that we simply cannot be ignored.
So mark the date on your calendar. Round one of a spring-long fight takes place on April 20 in Farmingdale, Long Island at the Roosevelt Little Theater on the campus of SUNY Farmingdale. We really need you to be there. We won’t win this without you.
For more information on the Long Island hearing, all other tipped wage hearings and other news related to the ongoing fight to keep the tip credit intact visit SaveNYTips.org.
For more information on NYSRA, visit our website at www.nysra.org.