Two state senators are introducing legislation to end the tipped minimum wage, and the effort isn't getting much opposition from local restaurant owners.
While the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, Pennsylvania law currently allows employers to pay tipped workers $2.83 an hour. Using a tip credit, employers can count tips against all but the state rate of $2.83 for tipped workers.
Even if the worker doesn't earn enough tips to get $7.25 an hour, employers don't have to pay more than $2.83 an hour to their tipped workers.
The state rate for tipped workers is slightly higher than the federal minimum wage for tipped workers, which has been unchanged for more than 20 years at $2.13 an hour.
A bill introduced by Sens. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, and Mike Stack, D-Philadelphia County, would end that credit and also raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour.
"This change is long overdue. That there are workers out there making less than $3 an hour is obscene," Leach said.
The senators said the tipped minimum wage affects several hundred thousand workers across the state, and two-thirds of them are women.
"There are single moms who can't afford to put food on the table, while the CEOs of the restaurants they work in are making $6 million a year. It's beyond the pale as far as I'm concerned, and we're increasingly becoming a society of the haves and have nots," Leach said.
Leach said the low wages are mostly a problem for workers at chain restaurants and diners. Those also tend to be the type of companies that oppose an end to tipped minimum wage, claiming higher payroll would cause them to fire workers, he said.
Reaction: Several local workers who rely on tips declined to be interviewed about the issue. Three local restaurant owners said they wouldn't oppose the bill, nor would it lead to a reduction in their workforce.
"It wouldn't make much of a difference. It would get into our pockets a little bit more, but we wouldn't cut down on our amount of servers," said Jeremiah Anderson, general manager and partner at White Rose Bar & Grill.
He said the York City restaurant's servers and bartenders "do well" there and have never complained about their tips.
"They average far above minimum wage when they work here," Anderson said.
And if the state minimum increases, that's OK, he said.
"We'll still have to maintain service and will need those workers," Anderson said.
Former server: While it's not an issue at Roburrito's or Taco Camino, owner Rob McGrath said it will be an issue at his new full-service restaurant, Hotel Fulton, that is set to open on Plum Street in Lancaster in two months.
"It could affect pricing, but it wouldn't be like anyone would lose their jobs," he said.
If it costs more to do business, the price of meals might increase a little, McGrath said.
But as a former server and someone who worked for tips, he doesn't oppose the legislation.
"Not everyone can afford to tip well, so it's hard when wages depend on that," McGrath said.
It also varies by restaurant and location, he said.
"This isn't New York City, so you can't expect New York tips. In the York area, there are really bad tippers and really good tippers," McGrath said.
Emphasis on service: At The Left Bank, servers are tipped pretty well, said owner David Albright.
"It's not as much of a problem at independent or fine dining restaurants. It's a different story for someone serving a $4 breakfast at a diner," he said.
When a restaurant's prices are higher, the servers are naturally tipped higher, Albright said.
If tipped minimum wage ends, it won't negatively impact tipped workers at The Left Bank, he said.
"If we normally need six servers to go through a busy night, I can't go down to five or four just because the wage went up. I can't sacrifice our level of service," Albright said.
—Reach Candy Woodall at email@example.com.