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Fair Wage Law: Ending Legal Subminimum Wage for Tipped Workers in New York – A Legislative Battle

The battle of elected leaders and the organization One Fair Wage (OFW) to advance legislation that has been stalled for years, which would end the legal subminimum wage for tipped restaurant workers in New York, it takes on other dimensions and has other “ingredients.”

Currently, waiters and bartenders in this industry, almost as part of the gastronomic culture, automatically obtain ‘tips’ from customers, but They earn 66 percent of the legal minimum wage, that is, $10.40 an hour in the Big Apple and $8.35 in the rest of the State.. The legal draft also seeks to include cooks and dishwashers as beneficiaries of tips.

The proposal is that employees in this industry earn the legal minimum ($16), plus tips, in the case of New York City.

“This workforce has fought more against poverty than other workers. It is unfair that those who serve exquisite dishes at a table, They mostly depend on food stamps to be able to bring food home.. It is fair that, just as has happened in California and Washington DC, this law is supported by Governor Kathy Hochul this year,” OFW spokespersons said in a statement this Thursday.

The project of Fair Wage Law (A1710A/S5567A)which is expected to be included in the fiscal year 2025 budget, is sponsored by Queens Assemblywoman, Jessica González-Rojas and by Senator Robert Jackson to ensure predictable and stable wages for these workers, the majority of whom are Hispanic immigrants.

The so-called subminimum wages would be gradually eliminated, until reaching the maximum goal within a period of five years. Certain subsidies and economic incentives are stipulated for small restaurant owners.

Activists and elected leaders are promoting the Fair Wage Act to pass the test in Albany that year. (Photo: F. Martínez)

On the menu: the migratory crisis

This proposal, which would change the way the salary income of workers in one of New York’s emblematic industries is calculated, is currently encountering some trends marked by the immigration crisis, where thousands of people are desperate to win “anything.”

The waiter Mexican, Ismael Casillas, with 20 years in the industrywarns that in many cases some owners of gastronomic businesses “that are doing poorly” employ recently arrived migrants who accept any conditions, even serving tables just for tips.

This has the consequence, as Ismael describes, that the struggles achieved for years for decent income, are “being thrown away.”

“We are seeing that for hundreds of newly arrived people who live in shelters and have all their meals covered and who also do not pay taxes, It is very convenient to work only for tips, because they do not have rental costs. So many small restaurant owners are happy with this workforce,” he highlighted.

The Puebla migrant maintains that for several generations, it has been undocumented workers who have sustained and allowed the restaurant industry in New York City to grow. And yet, they have fought with dignity against labor abuse and wage theft. But in his words he says that now a group of migrants, who even arriving “have papers,” They accept “whatever” because they are not under the pressure of essential personal expenses.

“Let’s take stock”

According to a recent survey released by OFW, almost 80% of New York voters said they would support a bill that eliminates the subminimum wage and behind the push for legislation that would guarantee it are also restaurant owners, like the Mexican María Guadalupe González, who in 1990 started as a waitress and bartender earning $2 an hour. Today she owns her own restaurant in East Harlem.

María Guadalupe, now as patron, supports more protections and fair salaries for those who make service possible in one of the businesses more complicated and competitive in the dynamics of the city.

“They have the right to obtain minimum wages. They are hours of efforts to satisfy customers. “I know what it means to be on that side,” said the small gastronomic entrepreneur.

The Aztec migrant supports and fights for better salaries through laws, the quality of life of the workforce of an industry that has been built by people who, even “without papers,” have done nothing other than contribute to the local economy: “I see a lot of disappointment from people of many nationalities, that with 20 and 30 years here, leaving his life in a kitchen and giving good service, They have not seen their efforts rewarded, with any action that helps them. There must be a balance between the benefits that newcomers have and those who have only worked for decades.”

“They don’t understand this industry”

For the bulk of the owners of these businesses, which number in the thousands and thousands in New York City, the “recipe” for the legal minimum wage plus tips is not in sight. as a step that is beneficial, nor feasible for that sector.

On the contrary, some union spokespersons assure that will close businesses and reduce payrolls.

The president of the New York Hispanic Restaurant and Bar Association, Sandra Jaquez, remember that thousands of businesses are still trying to recover from the onslaught of the pandemic, where to survive, many owners had to take out loans that have not yet been paid.

“I think of course, There is a good intention on the part of those who propose this law. We always want the best for our workers. We must be realistic and understand the moment that this industry is experiencing. Finally, the hour of work plus tips always even exceed $16 per hour,” Jaquez highlights.

The union leader does not doubt that if this legislation is approved, Unfortunately the prices of dishes in restaurants are going to increase and many will be forced to reduce the number of employees.

Regarding the chapter of the proposed state law, which would regulate tip distribution among those behind the scenes, like cooks and dishwashers, Jaquez believes that it would not be convenient either, since the waiters who are in the first line of service, they would lose “motivation for excellent service.”

“At this time with the severe legislation against wage theft, The overwhelming proportion of restaurant owners are committed to doing the right thing. When we open a position, 8 and 10 interested people immediately appear in a matter of hours. Unfortunately, the majority either do not speak English or do not have documents.. And we can’t use it. I don’t think it’s true that it is a widespread practice to employ newcomers, just to pay them less. For one, not all can pay“, he concluded.

Bartender Jessica Ordeñiaga says that it is not easy for women to work in that sector. (Photo: F. Martínez)

And increasingly less attractive job

The subminimum wage affects a workforce of nearly 330,000 tipped workers in the Big Apple, of which 58% are women and 49% are people of color.

Based on reports shared by OFW, these workers are mostly women who continue to suffer higher rates of discrimination, sexual violence, harassment and economic difficulties.

Since the pandemic, restaurant workers have been leaving the industry. Some surveys suggest that 53% of workers are considering leaving their jobs, 70% cite low wages as the main reason for leaving, and 78 percent of workers say the only reason they would stay in the industry is if they received a living wage plus tips.

For bartenders like Jessica Ordeñiaga, with seven years working behind the bars, it was not easy to earn respect in a space dominated by men. She says that even the clients themselves often think that Women are not capable of preparing a good cocktail and that influences tips.

“As women we must fight hard to be respected. There is progress at this time, but we deserve better income”he highlighted.

Majority Hispanic:

  • 60% of workers of restaurants living in New York City are immigrants, according to a 2020 study by the New York State Comptroller’s Office.
  • 317,800 workers in this industry in NYC 44% were Hispanic and 20% Asian, found the same report
  • 113,056, which represents 17.39% Of all restaurant workers, they cannot even support themselves with what they receive and must resort to food stamps to survive.
  • 47% reported that tips and wages of their employers did not allow them to reach the full minimum wage.
  • 25% of all workers affected in NY for wage theft are from the restaurant and bar sector.

2024-02-23 17:06:58
#Fight #eliminate #subminimum #wage #restaurant #workers #mixed #ingredient #immigration #crisis #Diario

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