Before the Legislature is L.D. 403, which would abolish the provision of the law that allows tipped employees to be paid significantly less than minimum wage.

The subminimum wage of $3.75 per hour is the only pay that tipped employees can truly rely on – the rest of their income is supplemented by the whim of a restaurant patron once the bill comes. After taxes, most receive a paycheck of next to nothing.

As a current tipped restaurant employee with 15 years of experience in the industry, I urge lawmakers not to pass L.D. 403.

With such a low impact on the payroll, it’s within a restaurant’s budget to overstaff tipped employees. Not only does this provide more opportunity for an employee to earn tips, it ensures that the customer receives quick and efficient service.

Doubling the hourly rate of a large portion of a restaurant’s staff would place a huge burden on a company’s payroll, in some cases forcing it to sacrifice service for the sake of the bottom line. In this scenario, both the employee and the public lose out.

A more pressing matter among tipped employees is benefits. Few have health insurance or paid sick and maternity leave. Faced with the choice of losing a day’s pay or serving the public while ill, many restaurant employees choose the latter.

In my years in the industry, I have worked alongside countless pregnant women who remained on the job well into their third trimester. With no health insurance or financial safety net, they often have no other option.

Mike Tipping of the Maine People’s Alliance has recently advocated for the abolition of the subminimum wage for tipped employees.

To Mike I say this: The advocacy is appreciated, but I’d rather stay home when I have the flu than earn another $3.75 an hour.

Joseph Small