Speaking of the new minimum wage, which I did a few days ago, there are many exceptions to the requirement to pay minimum wage. One has received some attention lately, the tipped employee or waiter minimum wage, which has been stuck at $2.13 per hour since 1991. When I was in college in the 1970s, I made $2 per hour, earning slightly less than minimum wage at my dining hall drudgery job (paying college students less than minimum wage is also legal). For wait staff to make $2.13 per hour is rather shocking; unless they are in busy high-end restaurants, the minimum wage is probably a significant component of their compensation.
Representative Donna F. Edwards of Maryland recently introduced a law to increase the minimum wage gradually, H.R. 2570. In that law, dubbed the “WAGES Act,” for Working for Adequate Gains for Employment in Services, the minimum wage would be increased to $3.75 per hour three months after enactment of the law. In 2011, the minimum will again rise, to $5.00 per hour, and then keep pace at 70% of the federal minimum wage, or at least $5.50 per hour, by 2012.
According to census figures released by Representative Edwards’ office, “nearly 15% of all waiters and waitresses live below the federal poverty level, while only 5.7% of the workforce as a whole falls beneath this threshold. Minority populations are particularly hard hit by these low wages. According to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS), 22.3% of African-American tipped employees and 18% of Latino tipped employees live in families that are below the federal poverty level.” Women are also disproportionately affected.