Utah is the latest state to debate raising the minimum wage for restaurant servers. On Thursday, Utah lawmakers defeated a bill that would increase a servers hourly wage by nearly $5. According to Fox 13, waiters currently make $2.13 per hour, which means they heavily depend on tips for the bulk of their salary. Representative Justin Miller — who is behind the bill — tells the news station that currently around 20,000 restaurant employees rely on tips and nearly half of them are "living in poverty." Miller adds, "When you have nearly half of an industry receiving some type of public assistance, so essentially the state ends up subsidizing the restaurant industry, that's the time for state to get involved."
Around 20,000 restaurant employees [in Utah] rely on tips and nearly half of them are "living in poverty."
The proposed bill would have raised the hourly rate to $7.25, but it was defeated in committee Thursday. Opponents to the bill argued that the "increase could put restaurants out of business." Others worry that customers "may not tip as much knowing servers are making minimum wage." Miller, however, says that he plans on tweaking the bill and presenting it again the next time lawmakers are in session.
A number of cities have raised the minimum wage recently. In June, Seattle's City Council unanimously voted to raised the city's minimum wage to $15 hour. The decision was controversial and many local chefs are afraid that it will be a tough adjustment for small restaurants. Chef Brendan McGill tells Eater Seattle: "To pay my staff more, I need to either buy worse food or raise my prices." San Francisco also instituted a $15 minimum wage recently and many restaurant owners are not happy. Other restaurants have taken to paying staff a yearly salary and eliminating tipping altogether to avoid such issues.