A new bill proposed by the New York State Assembly Majority could hasten the process of raising the minimum wage while also adding new stipulations that would directly affect service workers.
As part of the 2013-14 New York state budget, the minimum wage is set to gradually increase from $8 per hour to $9 per hour by the end of 2015. First, it will be raised to $8.75 per hour on Dec. 31, 2014, and will reach its full increase the following year.
Under the General Industry Minimum Wage Act, New York state employers are required to pay all employees at least $8 per hour, unless the position the employee holds is subject to a wage order — a regulation that modifies the basic pay rate.
Food service jobs, including waiters, hosts and bussers, are among the main occupations subject to wage orders. As a result, employers are required to pay these employees only a minimum of $5 per hour in addition to the tips they receive.
The proposed bill would increase the cash wage for service workers who are subject to wage orders, including restaurant and farm workers. It would also index the wages to inflation annually and grant local authorities the right to raise their minimum wage up to 30 percent above the state minimum, according to assembly.state.ny.us.
Putting the bill into effect, according to the NYS Assembly bill summary, would change the minimum wage to $9 per hour by Dec. 31, 2015, and then to $10.10 per hour by the end of 2016.
In addition, Section 3 of the bill would immediately raise the minimum minimum cash wage for food service workers from $5 to $5.50 per hour. At the end of Dec. 2014, the minimum would be $6.20 per hour, and on Dec. 31, 2015, would be increased to $6.95 per hour.
“I think the pros outweigh the cons,” Applebee’s host and PSUC senior Mack Ogrodnick said. Referring to potential job loss caused by extra costs businesses would face if they were forced to raise salaries, Ogrodnick said it is an opportunity to “trim the fat,” and to ensure that the “business rewards its most effective workers.”
“It’s enough to get by,” he said, “but not live well.”
PSUC senior Mark Henrichs, who has been working in the service industry since age 14 and has worked at four restaurants, said he believes the bill’s passing would be beneficial.
“This bill would help to reduce a lot of the pressure and stress servers feel to get big tips,” Henrichs said. “Instead of focusing so heavily on making money just to get by, people wouldn’t have to worry so much about their paychecks and could focus more on doing their job.”
Although an increase in wages has obvious benefits for workers, others in the business believe that a raise in the minimum wage would have unwanted effects in the long-term and would negatively impact the restaurant business.
“The minimum wage for food service employees is completely appropriate as it stands now,” said Clayton Chachulski, a PSUC junior and five-year veteran of the food service industry.
Chachulski has worked at six restaurants, and has experience at every position. He has worked at three local restaurants — The Naked Turtle where he was a cook, Ground Round, and Buffalo Wild Wings, where he is currently a line cook.
Although he admits that the location and size of the restaurant may have an effect on how much money a worker makes, he believes raising wages is not the way solve the issue.
“It’s all about your personality,” Chachulski said. “If you’re a server, you have to wait on every table like it’s your last. If you come to work with the right attitude, you will succeed.”
Email Thomas Marble at firstname.lastname@example.org.