As a full-time server at a restaurant in Portland, I’ve been closely following the City Council’s recent action to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, as well as its current consideration of the minimum wage for tipped workers. The council recently approved raising the tipped wage to $6.35 per hour, but is now considering lowering it back to $3.75.

Despite the repeated claims of some restaurant owners in town, most tipped workers in Portland aren’t getting rich.

Even when the summer months are good for us (which can’t be taken for granted at many restaurants), a lot of places either shut down over the winter or slow down so severely that tipped work can’t be relied on for paying bills and putting food on the table.

That’s why the median wage over the course of a year for tipped workers in the area is less than $9 per hour.

While all Portland employers are legally required to make up the difference if a tipped worker doesn’t earn the non-tipped minimum wage (which will be $10.10 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016) in a given week, enforcement of this law is sparse and many restaurants may be noncompliant.

Raising the tipped wage above its current level of $3.75 per hour and strictly enforcing the law would give tipped workers a better shot at making ends meet, particularly during the offseason.

Portland’s thriving restaurant scene is drawing record numbers of people to our city and our state, many for the first time. In my experience, tipped workers in Portland are proud to provide the high-quality service that we do, and I hope our elected leaders work to ensure that we can continue to afford living here as this city gets more and more expensive.

Nat Lippert


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