[Tallahassee, FL] This past week the Florida Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee passed SB 2106 that would permit employers to pay tipped workers a new lower minimum wage rate of $2.13 per hour, the federal tipped minimum wage, versus the current minimum tipped wage of $4.65 per hour as required by the State of Florida.
The bill was proposed at the behest of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA) with support from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida. The FRLA has been waging a letter-writing campaign lobbying representatives and senators to support the measure, as well as bringing members to testify before the committee.
In 2004, a 72% majority of Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment which established a tipped minimum wage, provided for automatic cost of living increases annually, and expressly forbids the legislature from weakening the minimum wage. (Florida Constitution Article X Sec 24).
Thus, if SB 2106 passes, it will likely face an immediate court challenge.
The FLRA is claiming that Florida’s higher than federal minimum wage is putting restaurants out of business or causing multi-unit operators to open new units in states other than Florida.
Yet, Florida is the third-fastest growing state for restaurant jobs and the third-fastest growing state for restaurant sales, according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA). Earlier this month, the NRA also noted that “in the states, the restaurant industries in Texas and Florida will show the strongest job growth over the next 10 years at roughly 17%.”
How does Florida stack up to other states? The tipped minimum wage is higher in Washington, Alaska, Oregon, California, Connecticut, New York, Hawaii, Nevada, Montana, Minnesota and Illinois than Florida. There is no lower wage permitted for tipped versus non-tipped workers in seven of these states.
While, as the business lobbyists point out, there are servers who make hundreds of dollars a night, this is not the norm. For 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average server makes $8.97 per hour. Servers have a poverty rate three times the poverty rate of the workforce as a whole.
Although the bill proposes a novel guarantee of 130% of the regular minimum wage including tips, this provision has no enforcement mechanism. Florida is just one on a handful of states that has no agency tasked with enforcing the current minimum wage law on the books.
The Florida Attorney General has not brought a single minimum wage action since the amendment was passed seven years ago.
The measure next heads to the Committee on Regulated Industries, which oversees the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
By: Harold Rodgers/Sunshine Slate
tipped minimum wage