EDITORIAL: Raise minimum tipping wage

York Dispatch
Server Tina Nelson, left, takes an order for customer Steve Graby, right, of Lancaster, during the lunch hour at Round the Clock Diner on Arsenal Road in York, Pa. on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. Nelson has been employed by the diner for the past 22 years of the 28 that she has been a server.

We recently spoke with Yorkers in the restaurant business regarding the elimination of tipping in favor of a higher base wage for servers and other staff who rely on gratuities.

Those we spoke with aren’t in favor of eliminating tips because, as Danielle Morelli, who works at Lyndon Diner, put it: “When you’re good at your job, you control the amount of money you make.”

We agree with Danielle. Workers who excel sometimes make very good money, and that opportunity shouldn’t be taken away from them.

What should be considered, however, is requiring establishments to pay at least a minimum wage base, so that customers aren’t responsible for paying a portion of the employees’ minimum-wage salaries.

Women are concentrated in these types of minimum-wage jobs. Of the more than 35 million workers nationally who are paid minimum wage, more than 6.3 million are working mothers — representing 27.3 percent of all working mothers with children under 18. Nearly one third of affected parents are the sole providers for their families.

Raising the tipped minimum wage, which is $2.83 per hour in Pennsylvania, could usher in more fair pay for women, particularly women of color. In the United States, a woman makes 76 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Under the tipped minimum wage law, an employer must make up the difference if the employee’s tips and the $2.83 per hour do not meet the full Pennsylvania minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Additionally, the sub-minimum wage applies only if an employee received more than $30 in tips during a month. If an employee does not receive more than $30 per month in tips, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry, the employer must pay the regular minimum wage.

Why not at least pay minimum wage and encourage tipping for service that goes above and beyond?

Why does it have to be one or the other?

Economically healthy women contribute to their family’s socio-economic health. A woman in a traditionally low-paying job who is working hard to support her family should be given every opportunity to do so.

Healthy families contribute to society in ways far beyond the four walls of their homes. For example, children living in poverty are at a disadvantage in school – and therefore in life.

By ensuring we pay workers, particularly female workers, a true living wage, our community would reap benefits we can only begin to imagine. It would also create less of a burden on safety net social programs, which are supported by taxpayers.

Strengthen families and you strengthen society.

A living wage is a good step toward that goal.