America's minimum wage debate is at a tipping point. Here's what's at stake

www.sfchronicle.com
7 min read
fairly easy
Tipped employees, like servers and bartenders, can be paid as low as $2.13 per hour in...
some states. Democrats tried to eliminate the subminimum wage as part of the Raise the Wage Act, but the plan was dropped from the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill after failing to pass the Senate. Still, the "Fight for $15" movement continues and will likely be revisited during the Biden administration's term. Recently, Olive Garden's parent company Darden Restaurants was sued over its tipping policy.

On this episode of the Extra Spicy podcast, find out the origin of America's tipping culture and its links to the minimum wage debate. Plus: what's at stake in the fight to raise the federal pay floor beyond the restaurant industry?

Listen to the episode by clicking on the player above, or on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Scroll down for a summarized transcript of the episode, edited and shortened for clarity.

On Today's Episode:

Saru Jayaraman of One Fair Wage discusses the origin of America's tipping culture and its ties to racial and gender discrimination

Arguments for and against increasing the federal minimum wage. Plus: what do economists say?

Restaurateur Jesse Cool discusses "Heart of House," a new model of pay at her Menlo Park restaurant, Flea Street

SOLEIL: This is from the U.S. Department of Labor's website: the definition of a tipped employee is someone in the service industry who regularly makes more than $30 per month in tips. And if you're a tipped employee, the minimum wage for you is $2.13. But if that $2.13 plus tips doesn't add up to the minimum wage, the employer is supposed to make up the difference. In California, employers don't get the tip credit so they do have to pay the state minimum wage of at least $13 per hour. In San Francisco, it's about $16 an hour, but still: 43 states have a tipped minimum wage system.

JUSTIN: Right. And it's important to note that the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

SOLEIL: Yeah! And that's not changed since 2009, it's not tied to inflation. Some States have set their own…
Téa Francesca Price, Soleil Ho, Justin Phillips
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