Detroit Today: Should minimum wage increase for tipped workers?

Advocates for and against increasing the minimum wage for tipped workers discuss how it could change the service industry.

Stock photo of a tip jar.

The Michigan Supreme Court is set to consider a case that may significantly impact the wages of tipped workers and the state’s service industry.

Currently, the minimum wage for tipped employees in Michigan is $3.84 an hour compared to the normal $10.10 hourly rate

Many workers want the state to adopt an equal minimum wage for all employees. They argue tips are not reliable income and lead to unfair and harmful worker conditions. Opponents of making a universal rate, including many employers, argue that this change would significantly hurt their industries, especially restaurants, that operate at small margins. 

Advocates for and against the change joined Detroit Today to discuss how it would affect workers, business owners and consumers in Michigan.

Listen: The debate over raising the minimum wage for tipped workers


Sarah Coffey is the Michigan campaign manager for One Fair Wage, a nonprofit attempting to end sub-minimum wages for tipped workers. Her group is a plaintiff in the aforementioned Supreme Court case. She says that anyone who works full-time should be able to support themselves with guaranteed wages.

“Most reasonable people agree that if you work for a living, you should be able to [get] a living wage,” says Coffey.

Danielle Atkinson is the founding director of Mothering Justice, which advocates on behalf of mothers of color. Her organization is also a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case. She says some service industry workers cannot afford basic services that require disposable income and help grow the economy.

“No one’s having a baby if they can’t make ends meet,” says Atkinson.

Justin Winslow is the president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association. Winslow believes raising the minimum wage for tipped workers would harm consumers, businesses and workers.

“It’s an idea that makes a lot of sense in concept, but doesn’t seem to ever play out very well in practice,” Winslow claims. “And I think that’s the concern of those who work in this industry.”

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