Proposed Baltimore Bill to Raise Tipped Worker Wages Sparks Debate

By FOX45
Posted on 11/20/23 | News Source: FOX45

Baltimore, MD - Nov. 20, 2023  -  A source inside City Hall tells FOX45 News there’s legislation being drafted to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers in Baltimore City.

This comes as an online event titled “Bill Introduction for One Fair Wage in Baltimore” invites people to gather at City Hall on December 6th.

The event calls to raise the tipped wage for restaurant workers to the state’s minimum wage.

Right now, Maryland’s tipped wage is $3.63 an hour.

The statewide minimum wage is scheduled to increase to $15 an hour on January 1, 2024.

As of Monday, the City Council’s agenda for Dec. 6 did not reflect a bill proposal for a tipped wage increase.

“It’s gonna put a hurting on a lot of restaurants,” said Giovanna Blattermann of Little Italy’s Café Gia.

Blattermann said her employees often make well above $15 an hour.

She told FOX45 News her small business would not be able to afford the wage increase – also fearing customers would stop tipping.

“The guest will assume that [servers and bartenders are] getting paid $15 an hour and they will not tip,” she said. “And in 90% of the situations that server will be making less than they would before.”

So far this year, similar wage proposals have been considered on the state level, as well as in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, according to the Restaurant Association of Maryland (RAM).

“Three times this year alone this type of legislation has been defeated because of the overwhelming opposition from tipped workers,” said Marshall Weston, President & CEO of RAM.

Weston told FOX45 News similar proposals brought hundreds of servers and bartenders together to speak out.

“They are looking to save their tips and they’re looking to keep the current tipping system in place,” said Weston. “The reason being --they earn significantly more than minimum wage.”

Increasing tipped hourly wages could also increase menu prices and add service charges for customers, according to Weston.

RAM said Washington, D.C. is feeling the impact of recent changes to the pay model at restaurants.

“It has become abundantly clear in Washington DC that people are dining out less, they are tipping less, some are not tipping at all, some are seeing a significant reduction in earnings than what they are used to prior to the elimination of the tipped credit,” said Weston.

The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) is also following nationwide efforts to alter wages for workers in the service industry.

“The reason they have failed repeatedly is because tipped workers have shown up in opposition to what they’re trying to do and I expect something very similar is gonna happen in Baltimore,” said EPI Executive Director Michael Saltsman.