Higher minimum wage for servers a possibility


Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Chad Darnall

PADUCAH, Ky.---They haven't had a raise since 1991.

Yet some would argue they're among the hardest workers around.
Kentucky State Representative Will Coursey wants to give 'tipped employees,' like waiters and waitresses, a raise that he says is long overdue.
But some worry that'll drive up prices.
If the bill passes, minimum wage for tipped workers in Kentucky would immediately go from 2.13 an hour, to three dollars an hour.
Beginning in July of 2015, and for every year after that, the wage would go up .95 cents.
The increase stops when tipped workers' hourly rate equals 70 percent of the statewide minimum wage.  Right now that'd be 5.08.

It's probably no surprise servers applaud the bill, but managers and customers have some concerns.

You've got to be kind, quick, and accurate. But server Lindsey Bryant says even that doesn't always pay off.

"That's why I work three jobs. I don't know what I'm going to make here," Bryant said.

A raise in the hourly rate is exactly what Bryant wants, but her manager, Tim Winsett isn't sure it's what she needs.

"As long as you get the customer good service for the most part they're going to take care of you," Winsett said.

He worries higher wages will lead to higher prices, fewer customers, and smaller tips, thus defeating the purpose.

Customer Boone Barton sees how that could happen, but says 2.13 on top of tips isn't enough.

"Everything else been going up in 22 years but if your pay hasn't that's kind of got you in a bind," Barton said.

A bind Bryant knows all too well.

Coursey said there's an exemption for restaurants bringing in less than 95 thousand dollars a year.
The Kentucky Restaurant Association said they are opposed to the bill.  They say tipped employees are already guaranteed minimum wage between the cash wage and tips.

Coursey said he introduced House Bill 131 yesterday.
He said the bill will soon be assigned to a committee and could go into effect as early as July.