On January 1, minimum wage workers in New York State saw an increase from $7.25 per hour to $8 per hour, but certain workers are getting left out in the cold. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
Carolina Portillo works as a waitress at a Manhattan restaurant, but when minimum wage workers got an increase this week, she did not. That's because restaurant and hotel workers who receive tips were left out of the agreement last year.
"Basically, we get paid $5 an hour, plus tip," Portillo said. "The $5 per hour basically goes everything to taxes, so actually, what we do is the tip. Tip is not anything extra. It is our salary."
Tipped workers will have an opportunity for an increase. As part of the agreement among state leaders last year, an organization known as the wage board will make a determination about whether tipped workers deserve an increase, and by how much.
The wage board falls under the executive branch, and its members are picked by the Cuomo administration. As of now, there is no timetable for a meeting.
Tipped workers say they need the increase now.
"It's not stable. It depends on the weather. It depends on the customer. It depends on the holidays. It depends if your manager give you a better shift," Portillo said. "You cannot have, really, a steady income."
Under the terms of the agreement, the minimum wage jumps up to $8 this year, $8.75 in 2015 and $9 by 2016.
"That's actually a smaller increase than many of the other high-cost states are moving with," said Paul Sonn of the National Employment Law Project. "California's already approved $10 per hour. Other high-costs states, Maryland, Illinois, are going to $10 or $11. California is actually proposing to go further, to $12."
Democrats in the state Legislature say that aspects of the agreement to raise the minimum wage are unfair. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has announced a plan to accelerate the timetable for an increase, so that workers get $9 by 2015, a full year ahead of schedule.
In a statement, Silver said, "New York's hardworking men and women are struggling and they cannot afford to wait two more years for a decent wage."
The New York State Restaurant Association denies lobbying against a minimum wage increase for restaurant workers, but did issue a statement saying they have concerns about an excessive increase over a short period of time, which could have a devastating impact on local businesses.