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CT labor committee clears higher hourly wage for tipped workers

A waitress serves pasta in a restaurant.
Luca Bruno
A waitress serves pasta in a restaurant.

A proposal to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers has cleared the Labor and Public Employees Committee.

The minimum wage for tipped workers in Connecticut is currently $6.38 for wait staff and $8.23 for bartenders. If an employee's tips don’t bring them to the state minimum wage, which is $15.69 an hour, employers are legally obligated to pay the difference.

The bill would phase out the subminimum wage over three years.

Committee co-chair Senator Julie Kushner (D-Danbury) announced the legislation in December.

“We have roughly 110,000 workers who, when we raised the minimum wage successfully over the last five years, we found that we left some people behind,” Kushner said at the launch. “And now, people who are earning a subminimum wage, waitstaff, bartenders, they've been stuck since 2017 with no increase in their base wages.”

Opponents, including all four Republicans on the labor committee, said it will discourage people from tipping at restaurants and hurt small businesses, who can not afford to pay their staff more.

Senator Rob Sampson (R-Wolcott), the committee's ranking member, said the legislation may end tipping altogether.

“Ultimately, this might lead to more of a standardized salary, as opposed to, you know, waiters, who hustle and are able to make more money,” Sampson said on Tuesday. “And I think that's sad. I think we will suffer as customers and consumers and restaurants as a result.”

The bill is headed to the Senate floor for a vote.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.