It’s still legal to pay tipped workers $2.13 per hour in Utah. A legislator hopes to change minimum wage laws.

Stock image of State Capitol, Salt Lake City, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Two bills seeking to increase wages for the state’s lowest-paid workers have been introduced in the Utah Legislature this year.

Not since 2009, when federal laws mandated it, has Utah minimum wage been increased from $7.25 per hour. Employees working primarily for tips are only required to be paid $2.13 per hour, and that law hasn’t changed since 1991.

Rep. Lynn Hemingway, D-District 40 | Profile photo, Utah House of Representatives, St. George News

“All I’m trying to do is make life better for people who need a hand up,” Rep. Lynn Hemingway, D-District 40, said.

Hemingway is sponsoring the two bills seeking an increase in minimum wages, specifically an Hourly Wage Increase Amendments law, designated as HB 117, and Cash Wage Obligation Minimum for Tipped Employees law, designated HB 118.

The hourly wage amendments would increase minimum wage in Utah to $10.25 per hour starting July 1, eventually increasing to $12 per hour on July 1, 2022.

The cash wage obligation law would require employers to pay their tipped workers at least $3.25 per hour, up from $2.13. As is already the case, if reported tips do not match the federal minimum wage, the employer is required to make up the difference in the employee’s hourly rate of pay.

Hemingway initially introduced legislation calling for an increase of the minimum wage in Utah to $15 per hour several years ago and has steadily reduced that number in subsequent legislative proposals as the higher amounts were quickly voted down by the Republican-dominated state House and Senate.

“This year, I did the $10.25 but I held back,” Hemingway said, “and it never does escalate to $15 an hour.”

Recognizing the uphill battle similar legislation has faced in previous years, he said he’s willing to work with Republicans on the specifics of the bill.

“I’m willing to negotiate just about all of it,” he said. “It doesn’t have to go to $12, it could go to $11.25.”

His passion to get something done has to do with the myriad problems facing low-income workers, he said.

Stock image showing dollar bills and a quarter adding up to $7.25, the current U.S. federal minimum wage | Photo by IcemanJ, iStock / Getty Images Plus, St. George News

“The folks who are living on minimum wage are having to work two or three jobs.”

Citing statistics that indicate 16 percent of homeless people in Utah have full-time jobs, Hemingway said low-income workers end up costing the state enormously in the form of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid benefits.

Some workers in Southern Utah are at an especially severe disadvantage on the income ladder, such as Native Americans in San Juan County, according to an editorial by Ryan Benally published in the The Deseret News Friday.

“As it stands, 42.9 percent of tribal members living on the reservation have incomes of less than $8,350 per year,” Benally wrote. “In Utah, the poverty rate of Native Americans is 28.9 percent.”

“It’s a cascade of things that could be solved with just a slight raise to the minimum wage,” Hemingway said.

On the other hand, Southern Utah’s Rep. V. Lowry Snow, R-District 74, said there’s a place for lower-paying entry level jobs.

In this file photo, Southern Utah Rep. V. Lowry Snow addresses an audience at St. George City Hall, Utah, July 10, 2017 | Photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

“Most of us have been there,” Snow said in a previous interview with St. George News. “We take a summer working in fast food or labor. … They actually become part of the education experience, I think. I would hate to see those dry up by the state or the federal government exercising arbitrary labor controls in terms of increasing the minimum wage.”

Of the 40,000 workers in Utah earning minimum wage, Hemmingway said, most are not high school- or college-age employees.

“Most of the minimum wage workers are over 25 years old, and a large number of them are over 30,” Hemmingway said, adding that a large portion of those workers are single mothers.

Besides his Republican colleagues, Hemmingway said a number of special interests have opposed his legislative efforts, such as small business owners, who argued the cost of doing business doesn’t always keep up with wage hikes.

“My real motivation here,” Hemingway said, “is to get it to a point where a mom and dad, if they both work, can come home from work and spend the night with their kids – doing schoolwork, playing games – being mom and dad instead of having both of them going out for second jobs.”

He said that can be achieved with the modest wage increases he’s asking for. In the case of tipped workers, he’s only asking for an extra $1.12 per hour.

“There are people out there living on so little, that extra $8 a day would make a huge difference.”

Both bills have been introduced and are awaiting consideration by the House Business and Labor Committee. The bills have been sent to Alysha S. Gardner for fiscal analysis.

Resources

Read more: See all St. George News reports on Utah Legislature 2018 issues

Email: jwitham@stgnews.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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13 Comments

  • dons8120 January 30, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Its hard enough for people in Washington County to survive on 9 or 10 dollars an hour, nobody can make it on minimum wage. You can’t even buy medical insurance on 7.25 an hour, let alone pay rent and provide food. It’s a sad world we live in.

    • Jeffery January 31, 2018 at 10:37 am

      I guess it’s easy to blame the Church. All those Mormon slave owners whipping their slaves on the business plantation…

      Or you could bother to do a one minute google search and find out what the truth is (or even read the article, since it is in there).

      From the United States Department of Labor:
      An employer of a tipped employee is only required to pay $2.13 an hour in direct wages if that amount plus the tips received equals at least the federal minimum wage (the employee retains all tips and the employee customarily and regularly receives more than $30 a month in tips. If an employee’s tips combined with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 an hour do not equal the federal minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference.

      So….it’s already atminimum wage. But if you look at the numbers…according to glassdoor the average for a SLC server is $16,390. Yeah…sounds low, until you start reading more into it…that’s the annual wage without tips. Tips are an average of $20,000 a year. $36,000 is a far cry from poor poverty where you can’t make ends meet. It’s sure a lot more then i’ve made and i’m over federal minimum wage. Would it be great if they made more? Sure, but lets not kid ourselves, it’s nowhere near as bad as this politician wants you to believe. SLC server wages are 2% lower then the national average…again, a far cry from everyone living in plantation poverty while the business owner lives the life of luxury.

      • comments January 31, 2018 at 3:42 pm

        what happened to a gratuity being something a little extra for good service. Why do tips have to be the wages?!

        • PatriotLiberal February 1, 2018 at 12:20 pm

          You sound lot like one of those scumbags that finds excuses not to tip Jeffery.

  • 12345 January 30, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    Welcome to Utah ( LDS ) wages

  • PlanetU January 30, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    SO pathetic are the wages in this state. Good for him to give it try for an increase.

  • utahdiablo January 30, 2018 at 9:03 pm

    Raise it the hell up…to Fed min wage

  • comments January 30, 2018 at 11:45 pm

    If minimum wages didn’t exist LDS business owners would be paying employees with literal table scraps of food, if not just owning slaves or serfs outright…

  • PatriotLiberal January 31, 2018 at 12:29 am

    Raise it up. Everyone deserves to be making a livable wage.The FACT is that, unless you’re making AT LEAST $7.25/hour in St George, you’re living on the street or collecting other gov’t benefits. So small employers don’t like paying their employees enough to live. So what? Don’t like it? Close your doors, operate on fewer employees so you can afford it, or do the work yourself.

    • mctrialsguy February 1, 2018 at 10:42 am

      PatriotLiberal?? Is there such as thing?? : – ) Good comment…wages should be raised!

  • HerePliggyWiggy January 31, 2018 at 7:39 am

    LDS slave owners rule the roost here in Utah.

  • mctrialsguy February 1, 2018 at 10:41 am

    Raise the wages!!!! NOW!!

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