New radio ads urge Md. Senate to boost pay for restaurant servers, other tipped workers

A coalition pushing for legislation to raise Maryland’s minimum wage launched radio ads Tuesday that object to a provision in the bill that would change the way tipped workers, such as wait-staff at restaurants, are compensated.

Maryland’s minimum wage would rise from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by January 2017 under the version of the bill that passed the House of Delegates nearly two weeks ago.

Different rules apply for tipped workers, however. Under current law, employers must pay them 50 percent of the statewide minimum wage, or $3.63. If their tips are not sufficient to cover the other 50 percent, employers are supposed to make up the difference.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) proposed bumping up the 50 percent employer minimum to 70 percent. But under pressure from restaurant owners — who argued the governor’s proposal was too onerous — the House amended the bill to lock the current $3.63 in place for the foreseeable future.

“That helps big business owners but it sure doesn’t help me,” the voice of a waitress says in the new radio ad placed by Raise Maryland, the group lobbying for higher pay. “Customers like you will be responsible for more of my pay than the owner of this restaurant. That’s not fair.”

Listeners are urged to call their senators, who are considering what changes to make to the bill before the 90-day session ends on April 7. The Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the legislation, plans to hold its latest work session Wednesday morning.

The ads are airing on Baltimore news station WBAL. Raise Maryland is a coalition that includes labor unions, civil rights organizations and faith groups.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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