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Sen. Brown says new report shows why raising the minimum wage is critical for women, tipped workers

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Mar 26, 2014 at 2:07 PM

A new report released today by the National Economic Council, the Council of Economic Advisers, the Domestic Policy Council, and the Department of Labor underscored the importance of raising the minimum wage for women.

The report shows that women account for 55 percent of Americans who would receive a raise under the Fair Minimum Wage Act and 72 percent of workers in predominantly tipped occupations.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has been fighting to pass an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and an increase in the tipped minimum wage, which stands at just $2.13 an hour and has not been raised in more than 20 years. Earlier this year, Brown introduced a Senate resolution aimed at boosting the tipped federal minimum wage, which would help lift hundreds of thousands of workers out of poverty.

“Raising the minimum wage is particularly important for women and their families,” Brown said. “The tipped minimum wage stands at just $2.13 per hour and many tipped workers, more than 70 percent of whom are women, have not received a raise in more than 20 years. Today’s report underscores the urgency of raising the minimum wage for all Americans, but for women in particular.”

When the tipped minimum wage was first established, it was 50 percent of the regular minimum wage, and 60 percent at its peak in the 1980s. Today, however, it stands at a mere 29 percent of the regular minimum wage. Brown is a cosponsor of the Fair Minimum Wage Act which would gradually raise the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage. Brown’s legislation would also increase the regular minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from its current $7.25, and index it to inflation. That means that under Brown’s legislation, tipped workers would see their minimum wage increase to $7.10 or higher depending on inflation. 

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), there are about 3.3 million tipped workers in the United States and about 60 percent of them are restaurant servers. Last month, Brown discussed the importance of raising the tipped minimum wage with Saru Jayaraman, the Co-Founder & Co-Director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United. Brown also released new data by ROC United that details the “State of the Tipped Worker.” According to the data, tipped workers have more than twice the poverty rate of the American workforce as a whole; and restaurant servers are nearly twice as likely to depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to feed their families. Just in Ohio, according to further ROC United research, there were 50,000 tipped workers in 2012 earning at or below the state tipped minimum wage of $3.85; and in 2012, there were 201,000 non-tipped workers earning at or below the state tipped minimum wage of $7.70.

According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the minimum wage has lost more than 30 percent of its spending power over the last forty years. But according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), raising the federal minimum wage for both tipped and non-tipped workers would lift 4.6 million people out of poverty. And NELP also concluded that the Fair Minimum Wage Act would boost GDP by nearly $33 billion and generate 140,000 new jobs over three years as workers spend their raises in their local businesses and communities.

Brown recently met with five Ohio businesses that support raising the federal minimum wage. They include the Yankee Kitchen, a diner in Youngstown; Grounds for Thought, a coffeehouse and bookstore in Bowling Green; Dempsey’s, a restaurant in Columbus; Brothers Printing, a print shop in Cleveland; and Synergistic Systems, a computer consulting company also in greater Cleveland. 

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