As a restaurant worker and Portland resident, I am disappointed to learn that it was only by accident that my city councilors raised the municipal tipped minimum wage.
The truth is servers and other tipped workers are not making as much money as many assume. Servers’ national median wage, including their tips, is less than 10 cents higher than the national median wage for dishwashers. This trend is due to the fact that the majority of servers work in full-service casual restaurants, like Denny’s or IHOP.
Indeed, tipped workers disproportionately live in poverty. According to the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, while 8 percent of all workers live below the poverty line, 18 percent of tipped workers face poverty. Tipped restaurant workers have three times the poverty rate of the general employed population.
To help an especially vulnerable group of workers, by raising the tipped minimum wage, has been purported to potentially damage the restaurant industry of Portland. But seven states (Alaska, Montana, Nevada, Minnesota, California, Oregon and Washington) have abolished the tip credit system, requiring employers to pay tipped and non-tipped workers the same minimum wage. Instead of experiencing economic downturn, these seven have actually experienced above-average employment growth. The restaurant industry has a projected employment growth of 10.5 percent in 10 years for those states, compared to 9.1 percent in all other states.
With this in mind, I urge Portland’s city councilors to maintain the $6.35-an-hour tipped minimum wage.