Maine looks to restore tip credit

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A movement is building in Maine to restore the tip credit for restaurant servers  barely two months after their wages were hiked by 33% as a first step toward paying them the full hourly minimum.

Among the parties pushing for a restoration of the credit are servers themselves, some of whom report their income has dropped as a result of the change. They contend that guests are tipping less generously because of the higher wages restaurants were mandated to pay waiters and waitresses as of January.

“Tips in a full-service restaurant are really a way of life. That’s my income," said Ali Boulier, a server at Pepino’s in Bangor. "The way it is now, if we do not meet minimum wage by the end of our work week, our employer makes that up for us. In my 10-plus years of doing this, I’ve never had that have to happen.

"We really just want the tip credit to stay the same. Basically we are just asking for our income to not change," she said.

A Facebook page set up by a group called Restaurant Workers of Maine asks citizens of the state to contact lawmakers and voice support for two proposals that would reinstate the credit.

"What we are asking legislators to do is reinstate the tip credit to still be half of minimum wage, but keep the minimum wage portion of the law that was passed in November," said member Lisa Sturgeon. "Under both federal and state law, servers' base wages would also increase as minimum wage increases."

Restaurant owners and operators are leading the push for a rollback.

Eight Democrats in the Maine Legislature have joined their Republican colleagues in supporting the reversal, the Bangor Daily News reported yesterday. Democrats hold a six-member lead over Republicans in the lower house. Republicans control the state Senate, and Governor Paul LePage is a Republican. Virtually all of the Republicans in office favor a restoration of the credit, according to the paper.

Citizens voted in the November election to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9 an hour, from $7.50, effective Jan. 1. The ballot initiative also called for raising the minimum wage for tipped employees to $5, from $3.75, in January and by $1 every year thereafter until the wages are equalized.


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