HB118: Proposed bill could raise minimum wage for tipped employees by $1 per hour

A proposed bill would raise the minimum wage for tipped employees from $2.13 an hour to $3.25 an hour. (Danielle Jardine)

BYU sophomore Taryn Ramos Thurston started working at the Pizza Factory in Provo almost six years ago, but recently business is slowing down so much that it’s had a negative impact on her paycheck. Her salary is based on a minimum wage of $2.13 an hour and customer tips.

Many BYU students like Ramos Thurston could see a raise in their paychecks if a proposed bill in Utah’s Legislature passes. Rep. Lynn Hemingway, D-Millcreek, has filed HB118 — a bill that would raise the minimum wage for tipped employees from $2.13 to $3.25 an hour.

This isn’t the first time Hemingway has introduced a bill that would raise the minimum wage for tipped employees. During the 2017 general session of the Utah Legislature, Hemingway filed HB147, which would have raised minimum wage for tipped employees to $5 an hour. The bill did not pass.

This year, Hemingway has also filed HB117, which would raise the minimum wage for non-tipped employees from $7.25, the federal minimum wage, to $10.25 in 2018 and to $12 by 2022.

“We’re not a bad business, but there are other businesses that we have to compete with,” Ramos Thurston said. “It can be really frustrating when you’re only paid $2.13 an hour and business is slow.”

She said that as other businesses and large chain restaurants build around the Pizza Factory, service slows down, leaving waiters with fewer customers, less in tips and lower paychecks.

Taryn Ramos Thurston counts her tips. On slow nights, she sometimes earns as little as $6 an hour in tips. (Danielle Jardine)

For some tipped employees, the hourly wage is inconsequential. Senior Bryan Vosper, who worked as a waiter at P.F. Chang’s for two years, said he typically earned $30 an hour in tips.

“Most servers that are killing it don’t really notice the difference too much from the $2.13, unless it’s a very slow night,” said Vosper, who is majoring in political science. “A $1 raise isn’t going to make a huge difference, but nobody is going to complain about it.”

BYU economics professor Christian vom Lehn agreed a $1 raise would not dramatically impact the Utah economy.

“We don’t see big effects in small changes of the minimum wage, at least for the first few years,” vom Lehn said.

But for Ramos Thurston, who’s living on a tight budget like many other students, every penny counts.

“Maybe to some people who work in bigger chain restaurants, it may not seem like a big difference,” Thurston said. “But to people like us that have bills to pay and are only making $2.13 an hour, the small change could make a big difference.”

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