By Ken Thomas
WASHINGTON: Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that many restaurant owners support raising the tipped minimum wage for waiters and waitresses, calling the boost in pay “good for business overall.”
Boosting the minimum wage has been at the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s attempt to address income inequality around the country and make higher wages a key issue for Democrats heading into the fall midterm elections. The president has frequently noted that women earn about 77 cents for every dollar men earn.
Biden stopped by the Florida Avenue Grill, a popular diner near Howard University, to make the case for increasing the federal minimum wage and the wage paid to tipped workers.
The federal tipped minimum wage is $2.13 an hour — an amount that hasn’t been increased in more than two decades — and Democrats want to increase it to $4.90 by 2016. Biden noted that the diner’s owner, Imar Hutchins, recently raised wages for tipped workers on his own by more than $1.
“I don’t want it to go unnoticed that there’s a lot of restaurant owners around the country that think that the wage being paid should be raised and that it’s good for business overall,” said Biden, who spoke to customers, workers and a group of waitresses before exiting with four slices of apple pie.
“When you raise the tip wage, the tip minimum, or the overall minimum wage, all that money comes back into the economy,” the vice president said.
The White House released a report on Wednesday advocating a boost in the minimum wage to $10.10 and increasing tipped wages, arguing that it would help women and families. Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia currently require employers to pay tipped workers at an hourly wage that exceeds the national tipped minimum.
Republicans in Congress have opposed raising the minimum wage, saying it would place a burden on businesses and stifle hiring, including for women.
“The reality is that under Obama’s watch, life for women has gotten harder as we face higher levels of poverty, lower incomes and ObamaCare continues to hold back economic growth,” said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.
The report noted that women account for more than 70 percent of all workers in predominantly tipped occupations such as restaurant servers, bartenders and hairstylists.