Brown Pushes Bill To Increase Minimum Wage For Tipped Employees

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Central Ohio service workers are watching closely a new proposal by Senator Sherrod Brown to raise the minimum wage for tipped employees.  If successful, it would be the first such increase in more than 20 years.

"We depend on our tips for our wage," said Marisa Torres, a server at the Press Grill in the Short North.  "We don't have health insurance.  We don't have paid sick days off.  When we take off a day, we lose that money."

Torres has over a dozen years’ experience working in the service industry.

Like tens of thousands of Ohioans, Torres works in an industry where employees only make $3.93 an hour.

Thirty years ago the tipped minimum wage was around 60 percent of the regular minimum wage.

Now, according to Sen. Sherrod Brown, it's down to 29 percent.

"People shouldn't have to rely on a customer to get decent pay for the job their doing," said Brown.  "There are people who work hard.  It's valets.  It's people working servers in restaurants.  It's people who work in hotels."

Brown is pushing for new legislation that will raise the tipping minimum wage to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.

The Ohio Restaurant Association and the NFIB oppose any wage increase.

Both organizations say that in a fragile economy any change could hamper job growth.

"You raise the cost of labor and guess what happens? People don't hire. It's as simple as that," said Roger Geiger from the NFIB Ohio.

But Torres says tips often don't pay the bills.  And any tipping wage increase could go a long way to help out families.

"It would create a little bit more security people I think, for sure," said Torres.

Brown wants the US Senate to declare tomorrow - February 13 - "2.13 Day" as a reminder of the tipped minimum wage.

Both sides of the issue agree this could become a campaign issue this fall.