By Daylin Leach & Mike Stack
We are writing in response to John Doulgeris’ letter, on behalf of the PA Restaurant Association, in which he says our proposed bill to raise the minimum wage and eliminate the tipped minimum wage is unnecessary and would cause restaurants to close.
It’s a tough job being an advocate for poverty-level wages, but that doesn’t give Mr. Doulgeris the right to mislead in his defense of Pennsylvania’s ancient tipped wage.
The U.S. Department of Labor says that the median wage for a tipped worker in the United States is $9 an hour — that’s an average which includes 5-star restaurants. “Average” implies that half of tipped workers make less than $9, and we know that many make less than the pitifully low general minimum wage of $7.25. Mr. Doulgeris’ claim that Pennsylvania tipped workers average $16 an hour is either a fantasy or this state has the greatest tippers in America.
As the lobbyist for the PA Restaurant and Lodging Association, he cites federal law — as if the restaurant industry doesn’t lead the nation in wage law violations every year, racking up three times as many citations as the second-place industry which, as it turns out, happens to be the lodging industry.
But what’s really curious about the defense of poverty wages are the grave warnings about the consequences of paying employees enough to keep them off food stamps. Restaurants will close their doors?
How is it that California, with the largest restaurant industry in the nation, and Washington, with the highest minimum wage in the nation, manage to keep restaurants open and thriving without a second-tier tipped wage?
From our perspective, if a restaurant’s business model relies on them paying their workers starvation wages, and outsourcing the obligation to pay their workers to the taxpayers in the form of food stamps or Medicaid, then we are better off without them. There are plenty of establishments who don’t exploit their workers. We would welcome them to Pennsylvania.
SEN. MIKE STACK, Philadelphia and SEN. DAYLIN LEACH, Montgomery Co.