Press Releases

News from EPI Media Advisory: EPI to Host Forum on Why Tipped Workers Need a Raise

On Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 9:15 a.m. Eastern, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Restaurant Opportunity Center (ROC) will host a forum to discuss new research on tipped workers and the tipped minimum wage.

Laura A. Fortman, Deputy Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division at the U.S. Department of Labor, will open the forum. EPI research associate Sylvia Allegretto and economic analyst David Cooper will present the findings from their report, Twenty-Three Years and Still Waiting for Change. They will be joined by Marcie Gardner, a DC restaurant server, and others who work in the hospitality industry who will share their experiences trying to make ends meet earning the tipped minimum wage.

What: Forum on tipped workers

Who: Laura A. Fortman, Deputy Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division at the U.S. Department of Labor
Sylvia Allegretto, EPI research associate and economist at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley
David Cooper, EPI economic analyst
Marcie Gardner, DC restaurant server

When: Wednesday, July 23, 2014
9:15 a.m. Eastern

Where: Economic Policy Institute
1333 H St. NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20005



The full minimum wage was last increased five years ago this week, on July 24th, 2009. Meanwhile, the minimum wage for tipped workers has been stuck at $2.13 since 1991. In their research, Allegretto and Cooper explain how the separate tipped wage has led to higher poverty rates and greater vulnerability among tipped workers—tipped workers are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as the overall workforce.

EPI estimates that nearly 4.5 million workers in the U.S. labor force earn tips as part of their income. For more than 80 percent of these workers, the law allows their employer to pay them as little as $2.13 per hour—so long as tips make up the difference. However, mechanisms for ensuring that wages and tips add up to at least the minimum wage have proven inadequate. From 2010-2012, more than 83 percent of restaurants investigated by the Dept. of Labor had some type of wage and hour violation.

Many states have set their tipped minimum wages above the federal tipped minimum, and some don’t allow for a tipped minimum at all—requiring employers to pay the full minimum wage regardless of whether an employee receives tips. These states have seen no negative effect on employment as a result having a higher tipped minimum wage, while the poverty rate for tipped workers in these states is much lower. Eliminating the federal tipped minimum wage would improve living standards for millions, without adverse effect on tipped industries.