Demand New York Service Workers Be Paid a Living Wage

waitress lighting candles

Target: New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Goal: End policy of supplementing workers’ wages with tips in New York restaurants and demand workers be paid a living wage by the establishments themselves

Wait staff, bartenders, busboys, food runners, and sometimes managers in New York City restaurants rely on the kindness of strangers for their daily living wages. Federal law only requires restaurants pay their workers $2.13 per hour, so long as their tips make up the difference. The problem is that frequently, for the working-class servers with little legal clout, tips do not make up the difference. Especially busboys and food runners who only make a fraction of wait staff tips, these workers frequently go home without making minimum wage.

This practice balances service workers’ salaries on the whim of customers, many of whom do not even understand the process and consider their tips a gift to the server, as opposed to a necessary supplement to his or her income. This is especially true in a city like New York with such a booming tourism industry from overseas, where servers are paid living wages and receive additional gratuities for excellent service. The term “gratuity” is a misnomer in the United States that often deprives workers of well-deserved wages. Restaurant owners even have an obligation under federal law to ensure tips bring the restaurant workers’ wages up to minimum requirements, although it would be extremely difficult to find any restaurateur hassling clients who have under-tipped an employee.

The tipping policy also harbors feelings of class resentment and racial intolerance, as it encourages servers to favor customers more stereotypically likely to tip well while ignoring others. Further, it has been systematically proven that tip amounts do not correlate with quality of service, and often hinge on completely arbitrary data.

Tipping is a nuisance for everyone involved. It forces customers to calculate a proper gratuity after their meals; it creates legal problems for restaurant owners, deprives many servers of living wages, and creates an atmosphere of desperation in the service community that annoys customers. Please sign this petition to end the nonsensical practice of tipping as a supplement to regular wages in the United States.


Dear Governor Cuomo,

Tipping to supplement a worker’s income, as a custom, is economically unsound for everyone involved. It creates legal issues for the restaurant owners when their workers’ salaries don’t meet minimum wage requirements, frequently deprives restaurant workers of living wages, creates an oppressive atmosphere of over-eager or over-attentive servers desperate to earn their basic living, and requires diners to do calculations at the end of their meal. We hold these diners responsible for the living of their servers when they frequently don’t understand the custom at all, as in the case of overseas tourists.

This tradition is long overdue for a complete overhaul. Please work to institute a system where workers are paid decent, living wages in New York City and gratuities are simply that: tips given free of obligation, for good service.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons

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50 Signatures

  • Hermann Kastner
  • James Thrailkill
  • sheila childs
  • Terrie Phenicie
  • Mal Gaff
  • jeff hopkins
  • Nancy Petersen
  • Holly Hall
  • Marianne Oelman
  • Melanie waleski
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