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Organization renews push to end subminimum wage ahead of legislative session

Posted at 4:37 PM, Nov 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-13 18:13:59-05

BALTIMORE — Maryland, like most of the country, doesn't require restaurants to pay their tipped employees the full minimum wage.

Instead, hourly for most servers is three dollars and 63 cents an hour.

But not at My Mama's Vegan.

"We still pay 11 to 15 an hour depending on skill set so it's been working for us and we've been at it for a year and it could work for other people even big corporations," said Tia Hamilton, co-owner of My Mama's Vegan.

Hamilton says it helps with retaining staff because they know regardless of how many people walk in the door or how much they leave in tips, they're taken care of.

"I pay a livable wage. You know what I'm saying, so I think it's fair that us being small, we still have an obligation to take care of our people," said Hamilton.

One Fair Wage has been behind this push in a number of states, including fighting during Maryland's legislative session earlier this year.

The plan is to bring that issue up during the next legislative session in January.

"So many benefits, servers are overwhelmingly women, disproportionately women of color. Highest rates of single mothers of any occupation. They face the highest rates of both poverty and sexual harassment of any industry. Paying them a full wage reduces poverty, increases their ability to consume and eat out and their families to eat out. Also cuts sexual harassment in half," said ​Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage.

Jayaraman's claim is backed up by data from the restaurant opportunity center.

Courtney Jenkins is with the AFL-CIO who represents union workers in trade professions.

He took some tables to see what it's like being a server.

"The time for workers is right now. I mean we're seeing that in response to the pandemic. Workers who know their worth and want to be recognized for that worth. I mean the subminimum wage is just deplorable. The word subminimum should let you know that," said ​Courtney Jenkins AFL-CIO metro president.

During last year's legislative session there was a group of people against this movement claiming the minimum wage would lower their ability to make tips.

Their thought process was that if people know servers are making more money hourly they won't tip the same -- resulting in lower wages.

One Fair Wage also said Baltimore City could propose a local bill but did not say who the council member supporting the bill would be.