Tipped employees against minimum wage legislation

A proposal to increase the tipped minimum wage for tipped employees has the employees of a local restaurant worried about their income and the changes they could face financially.

House Bill 31 is slated to be heard in the Senate Corporation and Transportation Committee this week.The bill would increase minimum wage to $10 an hour effective Jan. 1, 2020, then to $11 an hour one year later and to $12 an hour on Jan. 1, 2022.The bill also includes a provision that would ensure that restaurant workers who rely more on tips get paid a base pay equaling 30 percent of the annual minimum wage, as well as tips. Currently those workers earn at least $2.13 an hour, plus tips.

Senate Bill 437 would raise the current state-wide minimum wage of $7.50 an hour to $9.25 an hour on Oct. 1 of this year. Then, on April 1, 2020, it would bump up to $10 an hour. On Jan. 1, 2021 it would go to $10.50, and finally, on Jan. 1, 2022, $11 an hour. This bill also calls for a separate minimum wage of $8.50 an hour for high school students who work.

A local restaurant in Portales is taking a stance against the bills to encourage legislators to “save their tips.” The Cattle Baron is a local, western-themed steakhouse chain restaurant that currently employees about 18 servers in Portales.

Cattle Baron servers typically work anywhere from 4-6 hours a day, according to employees.

Marina Navarrete, who has worked at Cattle Baron for three years, said depending on how busy the restaurant is, she can make anywhere from $100 to $300 a night working as a server.

Navarrete said on some days, servers don’t make anything on tips, but other days, they’ll make enough to make up for the loss of tips from the previous day.

“I’m OK with the pay I get now. We love our tips and make good money. If we get paid $15 an hour, we only get short shifts ,and it won’t be enough to support my bills,” Navarrete said.

Navarrete said on a Friday night, she can make anywhere from $300 to $400, and she wouldn’t make half of that if she was getting paid minimum wage.

Navarrete said that if legislation removes tipping, she would no longer work as a server, because “I make good money here to the point where I can survive and pay all my bills and not struggle.”

She said the change of pay would be a huge pay cut for her, and she would likely have to change her lifestyle to get by.

Meagan Brady, who has worked at Cattle Baron for two years, said she works a total of three jobs to make ends meet and her job at Cattle Baron is the only job where she breaks even.

“I pray for a 20 percent tip from every table; I give my heart out to my tables and try to make sure their drinks are full, and I apologize for any inconvenience. I live off tips to provide for me and my sister. If I give horrible service, don’t tip me, but I’m thankful for whatever I get,” Brady said.

Brady said she would also likely quit her job as a server if legislation removes tipping.

The Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce reported a similar opinion from a Clovis restaurant owner.

"The increases we're looking at are catastrophic to our local economies," said Walter Bradley, a Clovis restaurant owner.

The New Mexico Political Report reported Tuesday that the battle between the Senate and the House over the two bills continued as of Tuesday night, with committee members telling Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, who sponsors SB 437 to keep working with them on a compromise, but Sanchez said he was not going to “concur” on the amendment.

“I do not want to get to the point where we cannot work something out and we have no minimum wage [increase],” Sanchez told members of the House Labor, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. “That’s more of a tragedy than either one of these bills not passing.”

The Senate Corporation and Transportation Committee voted this week to table HB 31 while advancing SB 437.

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