Florida’s tipped workers could see their wages cut in half

The CEOs of restaurants like Chilis and Outback Stakehouse think that $4.65 an hour is too much for their tipped employees. A bill that was approved by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee last Thursday, SB 2106, would allow employers like Chilis to cut their workers’ pay to $2.13 an hour, the federal tipped employee minimum wage instead of Florida’s $4.65, a $2.52 per hour wage decrease.

According to Tip20.com, this will result in a full-time server potentially losing over $5,000 a year in wages.

The Florida Independent reports that Carol Dover, CEO of the Restaurant and Lodging Association, supports the bill saying that “restaurants want to keep employees, but the 118 percent increase in their wage since 2004, when voters approved a constitutional amendment to tie minimum wage increases to the inflation index, is hurting the industry.”

But the restaurant industry in Florida is far from suffering. A press release from UNITE HERE! Local 362 and Local 737 points out that:

  • Florida has the third fasting growing restaurant jobs and sales in the nation;
  • Restaurant jobs are growing faster in Florida than any other jobs;
  • Restaurant industry profits have fully rebounded from the recession and are higher in some cases.

In the same press release, a tipped restaurant worker named Heather McNally said, “As of now, my hourly wages barely cover my taxes. With my tips, I have to pay for everything my wages don’t cover: student loans, health insurance, a roof over my head, a car and gas to drive to work, food, and medical and dental bills.”

Erica Feliciano, a bartender, said “All our bills keep going up, so we can’t afford for our pay to go down.” Erica went on to say that “This proposal is outrageous and is two steps backward for restaurant workers.”

FightForFlorida.com, an online action hub for working Floridians, is working to get “the word out so we can stop them in their tracks.”

Fight For Florida has designed a card that activists are giving to tipped employees all over the state that reads “Here’s A Tip. The Florida Legislature is trying to cut your hourly wages from $4.63 to $2.13. Tell them this wrong! Write a letter at FightForFlorida.com/HeresATip.” Fight For Florida also states that, “Working families need assistance, not cuts to their basic pay. This is unfair, unbalanced and would cause economic pain in households and communities across Florida.”

UNITE HERE!, along with other labor unions, Central Labor Councils, and community organizations, participated in actions across Florida last Friday to stop this anti-worker bill.

Photo: Creative Commons 2.0


Joshua Leclair
Joshua Leclair

Josh has worked as a motorcycle mechanic and an organizer for a public sector union in Florida. He is currently active in Central Florida's labor and progressive movements. Josh grew up in New Smyrna Beach and now resides in Orlando.