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Restaurant owners want tips considered part of pay

From City News Service

LOS ANGELES — A coalition of prominent Los Angeles restaurateurs called on the Los Angeles City Council May 4 to count tips as part of higher minimum wages now being debated.

Waiters and other tipped workers should be treated differently under proposed $13.25- or $15.25-per-hour wage hike plans, because they often earn at or above those wage levels, restaurant owners and some of their employees said during a news conference at Taix French Restaurant in Echo Park.

The coalition asked the council to consider a “total compensation” exception in which employers would be allowed to meet the higher minimum wages by including any tips received by workers. If workers earn less than the minimum wage after tips are counted, the employers would make up the difference.

“Restaurants have played a key role in the revitalization in Los Angeles over the past

Bill Chait
Bill Chait

decade,” said restaurant owner Bill Chait. “Today, we have a thriving food industry that we once only dreamed of. I am proud to be a part of this community, but I am also concerned for its survival.”

Zach Negin, a waiter at downtown eatery Bestia, also urged the council to consider the total compensation exception, saying his total pay already includes an average $20 to $25 per hour in tips.

“I don’t need an hourly raise,” Negin said. “But my co-workers in the kitchen who maybe already make $15 per hour won’t be able to get raises as quickly if I am to get a raise. So not only do I already make more than they do because I receive tips, but I get a raise and they don’t. Is that fair?”

The group also offered to pay for a study into the wage hike proposals’ effect on the restaurant industry, and asked that such a study be done prior to the council acting on the plans.

“Small restaurants needed to be heard,” former investment banker-turned restaurateur George Abou-Daoud said. “We found out right away that while the city had conducted a number of studies, none had looked at the unique issues of restaurants.”

Abou-Daoud said the coalition includes about 300 restaurants whose operators support a wage hike, but only if it includes the “total compensation” exception for employers of tipped workers.

 

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