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NYS Exposed: State DOL reviews wage increase proposal for tipped workers

August 03, 2018 12:09 AM

The livelihood for thousands of local workers rests in the hands of the New York State Department of Labor.

They're currently reviewing a proposal that would raise minimum wage for tipped workers, like servers and bartenders.

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So, News10NBC looked into the plan that many say will actually lower the amount these workers are making.

"I think about it every day, I really do," says John Urlaub, owner of Rohrbach Brewing Company. 

At Rohrbach Brewing Company in Gates, waitresses and bartenders rely on tips. Now, there are wide-spread concerns about a potential change that could impact those earnings.

"I think financially it will hurt them, not only in the percentage tips that they get, but if you aren't filling the seats, you're not serving food, you're not getting a tip on that," says Urlaub. 

The plan would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from $7.50 to $10.40.

However, many believe that increase will decrease the amount that workers make in tips. It would also raise the burden on business owners by forcing them to pay the higher wages.        

"It's not like we don't have any information about whether this is the right move or not," adds Urlaub. "In the state of Maine, they tried it and they reversed it and not because the owners were screaming, but the staff was saying, 'this did not work out the way we wanted.'"

Urlaub was one of hundreds that brought their concerns directly to the NYS Department of Labor, which held seven meetings throughout the state.     

"There is no way that we can sustain these kinds of increases to labor without increasing prices," says Urlaub. 

A sentiment backed by upstate business group, Unshackle Upstate, says the idea, "will be a disaster in New York."       

"We are being told that job cuts across the board will happen if wages go up to even a miniscule amount," says Colin O'Malley, Rochester resident.  

But each of these meetings saw many speak out in favor of creating one fair wage, including Rochesterian Colin O'Malley.

"We have been told that industry will utterly collapse at any moment if wages go up, and they have gone up repeatedly, and the industry hasn't collapsed," says O' Malley. 

But the decision rests in the hands of the state Department of Labor. During their seven meetings, they heard over 40 hours of testimony from both sides.

The public comment period ended July 1. 

In a statement they said, "the department is in the process of reviewing comments and testimony" and that, "it is too early in the process to discuss any sort of timeline."

Urlaub hopes they were listening, "some people say, 'well it's just for publicity and really they've already made up their minds', but if they truly listen to the testimony that was given. I'm optimistic that the tip credit won't go away."

WHECTV

Copyright 2018 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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