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All About the Ballot Question That Will Decide the Payment Structure for Tipped Workers

Massachusetts voters could be asked this November to vote on how tipped workers should be paid.
Cover Image Source: Legislative Hearings | Unsplash | Photo by  Joshua Sukoff
Cover Image Source: Legislative Hearings | Unsplash | Photo by Joshua Sukoff

The way tipping culture has evolved in the US has triggered a debate across social media and in the offline realm as well, with a lot of voices focusing on the way restaurants avoid paying a fair wage to their staff, and rely on tips instead. Amidst this volley of opinions, a hearing was held regarding a ballot, through which the public may finally have the opportunity to vote on the payment structure for tipped workers, pending a decision by a special joint committee.

The debate revolves around the current law, which mandates a minimum wage of $15 per hour for all employees. However, tipped workers can be paid $6.75 per hour if their total pay, including tips, reaches $15 an hour.


The proposed ballot question, led by One Fair Wage, aims to incrementally boost wages for tipped workers over five years until they reach the state's $15 per hour minimum wage. Additionally, the initiative seeks to legalize tip pooling, currently banned under state law.

Advocates of the proposal argue that tipped workers, particularly those in the hospitality industry, often face harassment and marginalization, highlighting the need for fairer compensation.

Cover Image Source: istockphoto t:Igor Vershinsky
Image Source: istockphoto | Photo by Igor Vershinsky

Estephania Galvis, National Organizing Director for One Fair Wage, expressed frustration, saying, "During the pandemic, they called us heroes, they thanked us and like post-pandemic, they said we’re asking for too much when we’re asking for the bare minimum."

Former restaurant worker Darlin Dias revealed that she earned approximately $12 per hour with tips, amounting to around $280 weekly. She emphasized the financial hardships she faced, leading her to move back in with her mother.

"You can’t live with that. You can’t supplement your basic things. You can’t supplement your baby stuff. You can’t do anything with $280 a week," Dias said.

Money in a tip jar | Getty Images | Photo by Robert Alexander
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Robert Alexander

At the same time, many of the individuals opposing the proposed ballot question, turned out to be tipped workers themselves.

Stephen Clark, President and CEO of the association, argued against the proposed measure, asserting that it would result in negative consequences. "This is a lose-lose for everyone, this is a lose, lost earnings for tipped employees, lost revenue for restaurant owners, and higher prices for consumers," he explained.

A shopper pays cash for sales merchandise | Getty Images | Photo by Joe Raedle
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Joe Raedle

Among those opposing the bill was the Connecticut Restaurant Association, explaining that the increased payroll would represent a large expense for restaurants. "There is a $9.31 gap, per hour, per shift, per server. Where’s that money coming from?" Restaurant Association President Scott Dolch remarked.

If passed, the legislation would gradually increase tipped workers' hourly wages to match the full minimum wage by 2027, leading to higher costs for menu items and possible staff reductions.

"There would absolutely be a cutback on staff. We would take technology and put it on tables for people to order. And we would have food runners," said Bryce Hardy, a restaurant owner.


If the decision is left to voters, sponsors of the question must gather over 12,000 signatures to secure a spot on the ballot, and the results will play a decisive role in shaping the future of tipping.