Capitol Alert

Californians working for tips could miss minimum wage increase

A server at Malabar works on April 1, 2011.
A server at Malabar works on April 1, 2011.

Restaurant servers who derive substantial income from tips would be left out of an impending minimum wage increase under a California bill that has already spurred criticism from organized labor.

California’s minimum wage is set to rise to $10 an hour in 2016 under legislation Gov. Jerry Brown signed . But Assembly Bill 669, sponsored by the California Restaurant Association and carried by Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, would keep tip-reliant workers’ base wages at the prevailing $9 an hour rate. As currently written, the bill would affect workers whose tips push their take-home pay to at least $15 an hour.

Requiring restaurants to pay the higher base wage to tipped employees would mean less money is available to back-of-the-house employees, like cooks and dishwashers, who do not see tips, according to Daly’s office. Paying less to workers who get tips would leave more to pay those who do not.

“AB669 guarantees a $15 hourly rate for highly compensated workers and provides employers the ability to fairly compensate all employees,” California Restaurant Association spokeswoman Janna Haynes said in an emailed statement. “It does not reduce earnings for anyone.”

That argument does not sway labor unions who pushed hard for the currently scheduled minimum wage increase. The United Food & Commercial Workers Western States Council will oppose Daly’s bill, which UFCW executive director James Araby said “would undermine the spirit of raising the minimum wage.” The umbrella California Labor Federation has not yet taken a position, but a spokesman called the bill “wrongheaded.”

“Here we are in a time of record inequality; why would we be taking money out of the pockets of people who need it most?” spokesman Steve Smith said. “That’s why we fought so hard for the minimum wage increase.”

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.