AOC’s approach to wages helped close a restaurant where she used to work

AOC’s approach to wages helped close a restaurant where she used to work
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her job prior to becoming a member of Congress (Image via Twitter)

[Ed. – With friends like her, who needs enemies?]

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will return to her restaurant roots this Friday, tending bar in the 14th Congressional District (location TBA) to raise support for a campaign to change how tipped employees are paid.

The problem: The approach she’ll champion helped to close at least one joint AOC used to work at.

AOC’s watering hole for the working class might succeed as a media stunt. But the policy she is promoting has drawn opposition from an unexpected interest group: tipped servers and bartenders.

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Start with a quick primer on restaurant industry wages. In all but seven states, tipped employees can be paid a lower base wage so long as their hourly wage equals at least the required minimum when tips are included.

If employees’ tips fall short of this mark, employers are legally required to make up the difference. This is rarely a problem; federal data show that tipped employees in New York report earning $17 an hour upstate and $20 an hour in New York City. (A 2015 report from the New York City Hospitality Alliance puts the median hourly rate at $25.)

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