Ohio restaurant and bar lobby says servers, bartenders against wage hike

Posted on:

< < Back to

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — One of the state’s biggest restaurant and bar lobbying associations is calling foul on the effort to raise the minimum wage for a subset of workers including bartenders, servers and busboys.

The Ohio Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance (ORHA) put out a new survey Tuesday, which argues the bulk of the state’s bartenders and servers prefer the current system. Under state law, businesses can offer service workers a base minimum wage of $5.25 hourly if customer gratuity bridges the difference between that rate and the regular $10.45 hourly rate.

According to the ORHA-commissioned survey, 93% of service worker participants said they believed they’d earn less money if their base salary was raised. Right now, more than four-fifths of participants said their pay exceeds $20 per hour with gratuity.

Carnegie Mellon Professor Lloyd Corder led the online survey for national research and consulting firm CorCom Inc. last month with nearly 1,000 participants, who were not randomly selected.

Fight for $15/hour

The survey’s release comes with more than one proposal to raise the minimum wage floating around.

Among them, a coalition called Raise the Wage Ohio is gathering signatures to put a proposed constitutional amendment before voters. If it passes, the amendment would boost the minimum wage for most workers to $12.75 per hour by 2025 and $15 per hour by 2026.

A purple demonstrator's sign with "93% want current tipping system" printed on it.
A purple anti-minimum wage hike sign after a press conference at Jackie O’s on Fourth in downtown Columbus. [Sarah Donaldson | Statehouse News Bureau]
But for service workers currently making less than $10.25 per hour, under the amendment, businesses would be on the hook to raise their rates on a sliding scale—hitting $15 hourly for all workers by 2029.

From the second floor of Jackie O’s on Fourth, a brew pub in Columbus, ORHA President and CEO John Barker said labor costs would also skyrocket in that environment. That could “place tremendous pressure on all businesses in Ohio, particularly small operators and mom and pops,” Barker said.

Laurie Torres, who owns Mallorca Restaurant in Cleveland, agreed.

“If the ballot initiative passes, my guests would pay more, my servers would make less, and there is a real chance I would have to close my restaurant and the doors to a place so many call home,” said.

Raise the Wage Ohio is under the national umbrella of One Fair Wage, a national organization seeking to get rid of subminimum wages. The state’s current $5.25 subminimum wage for service workers is three dollars higher than the federal one, which sits at $2.13 hourly.

In a news release, One Fair Wage said the ORHA-commissioned survey included “questions that skew the true nature of the policy and is part of an ongoing strategy to mislead workers.”

“This is a mischaracterization of One Fair Wage’s proposal, which advocates for a full minimum wage plus tips, not one in place of the other,” the news release read.

Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday, when asked, that he doesn’t want a hike to cost the state jobs.

“It’s always a balance,” DeWine said. “We also know that someone who works for a minimum wage today, who is an adult who’s got kids—it’s very difficult to make ends meet by doing that.”

The ORHA full survey is available here. If Raise the Wage Ohio is successful in getting its proposed constitutional amendment to the ballot in the fall, the association plans to mount a serious campaign to push against its passage.