The Prince George’s County Council’s government operations and fiscal policy committee voted to indefinitely table a bill Thursday that would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers across the county.
The bill, CB-098, mandates all tipped workers in the county must receive at least the state minimum wage by 2028 through a gradual increase in the county’s minimum wage for tipped workers.
Currently, the county’s minimum wage for tipped workers — employees who receive more than $30 in tips per month — is $3.63 because tips make up a significant portion of their income, according to the Maryland Department of Labor.
The proposed bill would increase the minimum wage for tipped workers to $7.00 in 2024 before gradually increasing the wage to match the state’s minimum wage.
The bill follows similar legislation in Washington, D.C., where residents voted to eliminate tipped minimum wages in Nov. 2022.
District 7 council member Krystal Oriadha, one of the bill’s six sponsors, emphasized the bill’s intention is to give tipped workers a livable wage.
“It is ridiculous to believe someone could live off of and survive off of $3,” Oriadha said.
The bill also aims to address racial inequity in the county, according to District 8 council member Edward Burroughs III.
The bill’s intention is to primarily help Black and brown workers, Burroughs, the chair of the government operations and fiscal policy committee, said.
Leading up to Thursday’s public hearing, tipped workers from Prince George’s County and Montgomery County engaged in protests outside of the county council’s building in Largo to express mixed feelings regarding the bill.
Saru Jayaraman, the president of One Fair Wage — an organization focused on ending subminimum wages — said increasing wages is necessary to attract tipped workers to the industry.
“1.2 million workers left the industry during the pandemic,” Jayaraman said. “A lot of employers are saying [the pay] is not enough and we need policy that will bring these workers back to work.”
Raising tipped minimum wages has been a long-time priority for workers in the county, Jayaraman added.
But some council members, including District 5 council member Jolene Ivey, and restaurant employees opposed the bill — citing that the proposed legislation could lead to customers tipping less at restaurants.
“We might be on the wrong track with this bill because I think in the end, people would make less money,” Ivey said.
Mark Srour, the co-owner of Cornerstone Grill and Loft in College Park, highlighted that eliminating the tipped minimum wage will lead to his employees earning significantly less money — making it harder to retain quality staff.
The proposed bill would be especially damaging to small businesses, Srour added.
Like Srour, Robin Brooks, a tipped employee at IHOP in Greenbelt, expressed her opposition to the bill due to the possibility of fewer tips.
“It doesn’t work for me at all,” Brooks said. “I had raised two children on my tips.”
Brooks said she makes $30 to $35 per hour with tips — more than the proposed $15 minimum wage.
Due to the disagreements at Thursday’s meeting, the county council unanimously voted to table the bill indefinitely.
Despite the motion, Oriadha hoped to reconsider the bill in the future.
“If there are bad actors that are not doing what they’re supposed to in ensuring that people are getting the base minimum wage, we can’t let that stand,” Oriadha said.