Tipped Minimum Wages to Increase?

The doors of Contois Auditorium at Burlington City Hall opened for those concerned with livable wage issues on Monday, Feb. 19.

Chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vt. Worker’s Right’s Board sat at the front of the auditorium facing nearly 200 concerned citizens and students to hear testimony re-garding the state of the economy.

The hearing, titled “Race to the Bottom,” was a forum for those who wished to address the senator, city council members, state representatives and religious community leaders.

“What tonight is about, all over America what people need to do is stand up and say sorry the economy is not working for us’ and we need to create an economy that does,” Sen. Sanders said.

“The idea is that many community leaders do not get the opportunity to hear directly from their community,” Emma Mulvaney Stanak, director of the Vermont Liv-able Wage Campaign from the Peace and Justice Center in Burlington, said.

“Meetings like these give those concerned with economic issues a chance to be heard.” Mulvaney Stanak said.

An increase in tipped minimum wage was one of the focal points of the meeting.

Tipped minimum wage in Vt. is currently $3.63 and has not risen in three years, Mulvaney Stanak said.

There are currently two legislations in the Statehouse to increase this wage a dollar by this coming January, according to a press release by the PJC.

Vermont’s largest industries include service and tourism, according to the press release.

Megan Harlow, a UVM student, testified at the meeting for an increase in the tipped minimum wage.

“They’re making so much money, I don’t see why they can’t step it up and pay a livable wage,” Harlow said.

Chris Snullen, the owner of the Ice House, a restaurant on the waterfront in Burlington, said that the minimum wage should not go up even a dollar.

“Tipped employees are generally students, not heads of families. They’re earning well over the minimum wage on a daily basis,” she said.

Jared Titus, manager at Outback Steakhouse in South Burlington, said that he hadn’t heard about the push for an increase.

“If there was an increase, prices would maybe go up, but nothing drastic,” he said. Any employee making $30 a month in tips is considered a tipped worker, according to the PJC press release.

Jason Lorber, the state representative for about half of the UVM population, said that it was helpful to hear a different story.

“You don’t often hear the whole story unless you talk to those in the community,” he said.

“It’s important for UVM students to know that when they contact elected officials, it’s noticed in a very big way,” Lorber said. “It can really make a difference.”

“By talking to community leaders, those directly affected by our economy can put pressure on them to push for change,” Mulvaney Stanak said.

“Although these leaders may not be able to directly put it into law, they can definitely put pressure on the local and federal government, as well as local businesses, to implement a livable wage for all workers,” she said.