NY Diners Plead for 5-Year Freeze on Wage Hikes

ALBANY (AP) -

Spooked by the prospect of a huge jump in payroll expenses, restaurant owners wrote to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking him to hold the line on the base wage paid to servers and other tipped workers for five years.

Tipped workers had made between $4.90 and $5.65 before Cuomo raised it to $7.50 an hour before tips in 2015. The increase took effect last Friday.

More than 100 restaurant owners wrote to Cuomo and top lawmakers asking that they agree to keep the tipped wage stable to give the industry time to adjust to the increased labor costs.

Workers such as restaurant servers are paid less than the minimum wage on the assumption that tips will make up the difference.

Meanwhile, Cuomo announced Monday that New York state will raise the minimum wage for state university workers to $15 as part of his broader effort to expand that minimum to all workers in the state.

The increase at the State University of New York system will affect 28,000 employees when fully phased in during 2021. Cuomo announced the raise at a rally in Manhattan that featured organized labor leaders. He said that it was a taste of his State of the State address next week.

“We are chipping away at it,” Cuomo said Monday about the latest increase. “We’re making a little progress, a little progress, a little progress.”

But critics say the additional labor costs will lead to reduced employment, higher prices and struggling businesses.