NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 12: New York City restaurant workers rally outside Dine Brands shareholder meeting demanding an end to subminimum pay, saying "The people who feed you are fed up" on May 12, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for One Fair Wage)

BY:  – Ohio Capital Journal

A new survey shows 93% of Ohio servers and bartenders want to keep the current tipping system with a base wage and tips.

The Ohio Restaurant & Hospitality Alliance released the results of the survey earlier this week, which received 990 responses from tipped employees working at full-service restaurants across Ohio. The online survey was conducted in April by national research and consulting firm CorCom Inc. and had a 3% margin of error.

The survey comes as Raise the Wage Ohio is collecting signatures to put a proposed constitutional amendment on Ohio’s ballot that would raise the minimum wage to $12.75 an hour starting Jan. 1, 2025 and would eliminate Ohio’s tipped wage. Minimum wage would go up to $15 an hour starting on Jan. 1, 2026. Raise the Wage is part of a national campaign run by One Fair Wage.

“We believe it would really devastate the third largest industry in our state, which employs about 550,000 Ohioans and is still trying to recover from the pandemic,” said John Barker, president and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance. “Our industry is currently trying to weather the cumulative effect of record high inflation over the last three years.”

Raise the Wage Ohio needs to collect more than 413,000 signatures by July and they currently have more than 410,000 signatures, said Mariah Ross, the executive director of One Fair Wage.

Ohio’s current minimum wage is $10.45 an hour for non-tipped employees and $5.25 for tipped employees. An employer in Ohio can pay tipped employees half the starting wage, so tipped employees are guaranteed to receive the full minimum wage, but most earn a lot more through tipping.

“Zero restaurant workers make less than minimum wage by law. This has always been true,” said Todd Bowen, ORHA’s managing director of external affairs and government relations.

The median income for tipped workers in Ohio is $27 an hour, according to ORHA.

“The current system works well, but this proposal would force servers and bartenders to live on an hourly wage, which we know would lower their income, and it would nearly triple labor costs for restaurants and bars and other businesses employ tip workers,” Barker said.

Raising the minimum wage would force restaurant operators to raise their menu prices by about 20-30%, he said.

The survey also revealed 83% of tipped employees are earning $20 per hour or more and 64% of tipped employees are earning anywhere between $25 to more than $40 per hour.

Nearly 70% said they make more now than they could in a job in a different industry and 64% like having a flexible schedule.

“You might have a mom, you may have a student in college who can work when they want and they can make good money while they’re doing it,” said Lloyd Corder, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who leads the consulting firm.

If tipped wages are eliminated, 91% worry tipped employees would earn less money and 85% think customers would not tip on top of a mandatory service charge.

One Fair Wage called the results misleading.

“This is a mischaracterization of One Fair Wage’s proposal, which advocates for a full minimum wage plus tips, not one in place of the other,” One Fair Wage said in a statement. “The survey employs questions that skew the true nature of the policy and is part of an ongoing strategy to mislead workers.”

Workers speak out against raising minimum wage

Laurie Torres, owner & operator of Mallorca Restaurant in Cleveland, worries raising minimum wage could potentially close her restaurant. She said she would have to raise her prices more than 22% if the minimum wage ballot measure passed — something she has shared with her customers.

“Time and time again customers say they would visit less often,” Torres said. “And tip less dollars. If the ballot initiative passes my guests would pay more. My servers would make less and there is a real chance I would have to close my restaurant and the doors to a place so many call home. … My restaurant is just like your favorite restaurant. Are you ready to say goodbye to it?”

Lindsay Odell, a bartender at Submarine House in Huber Heights, said she easily makes more than $30 an hour — more than her engineer husband.

“If this did pass, this would change my life,” she said. “This would be terrible. I would never be a bartender and I love being a bartender. That’s all I’ve ever done. It’s all I ever want to do.”

The potential ballot measure could have a “devastating impact” on communities, Bowen said.

“It’s often a cool restaurant or a cool brewery that makes a neighborhood or development or a small community vibrant and anything that negatively impacts hospitality negatively impacts those communities,” he said.

Senate Bill 256

State Sen. Bill Blessing, R-Colerain Township, recently introduced a bill as a way to stop the proposed constitutional amendment.

Senate Bill 256 would raise the minimum wage for non-tipped workers to $15 and tipped to $7.50 by 2028.

“We think Senator Blessing’s approach has a slower, thoughtful, measured approach to $15 that gets there over a number of years … but do so without devastating Ohio’s businesses and the communities that they rely on,” Bowen said.

Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on X.

Megan Henry

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.

Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.



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