Wisconsin Democrats introduce bill to eliminate “tipped” minimum wage

Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 10:50 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -Wisconsin restaurant workers could see an hourly wage increase under a new bill introduced by Democratic lawmakers on Monday.

Tipped workers currently make $2.33 an hour. The bill would increase the amount to the state’s current minimum wage $7.25 an hour.

Lawmakers said the change is all about equity.

Lucille, a downtown Madison restaurant, already has a similar structure in place.

“I love serving that’s what i love to do, “ one of its servers, Baley Willis, said. “It’s a lot of walking around. It’s a lot of running around. It’s my workout.”

Juggling tables at Lucille is a simple act for Willis. He said speedy service equals bigger tips.

“I like making $2.33 an hour because the tips can carry your wage,” he said.

At the start of the pandemic, Lucille owners nixed the $2.33 wage and replaced it with a base salary.

“It’s a new thing that they wanted everyone to make a livable wage,” Willis said.

“We scrapped the whole tipping system and said we’re going to pay one rate as a base rate,” Josh Berkson, Lucille co-owner said.

He said making the pay system equitable so workers could put food on their own tables was priority. At the end of the night, tips are split between everyone in- house.

“There’s no one better than another person. All the success we’re having here is based on someone doing the heavy lifting underneath you,” Berkson said.

Some Democratic lawmakers want to put a similar structure in place for all restaurants in Wisconsin.

“In light of COVID-19, like so many other industries and sectors and really communities vast disparities were exacerbated and really highlighted,” Rep. Francesca Hong (D-Madison) said.

The proposal would do away with the state’s tipped minimum wage, which allows employers to pay tipped workers as little as $2.33 an hour.

It’s a move Hong said aims to bridge gaps and create stability.

“There are some Draconian laws right now. We want to look at having a restaurant industry that is innovative and thriving. Coming out of this epidemic, it starts with empowering workers and making sure that we taking care of our labor first,” Hong said.

Lawmakers are currently gathering sponsors to back this bill hoping to gain bipartisan support.

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association issued a statement on this subject last month describing the discussion about increasing the federal minimum wage as quote “needed” and “overdue,” but also saying this is not the right time to eliminate the tip credit citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the restaurant industry.

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