Twenty-Five Years Later, Tipped Workers Deserve a Raise

Twenty-five years ago the world was a very different place. George H. W. Bush was President, the Soviet Union had just collapsed, and the World Wide Web became public for the first time. Unfortunately, 1991 was also the last time the federal minimum cash wage for tipped workers was increased—to $2.13 an hour, where it remains today. This means that in many states, tipped workers, two-thirds of whom are women, haven’t received a raise in 25 years.

Do you remember what life was like in 1991? Here are a few reminders of just how much things have changed since the last time the tipped minimum wage was increased.

  1. Beverly Hills, 90210 was in its first season.

  1. Full House had its 100th episode (where Uncle Jessie and Aunt Becky’s twins were born!).

  1. Beauty and the Beast, Hook, Silence of the Lambs, and Terminator 2 were all box office hits.

beauty and the beast hook silence of the lambs terminator

  1. Nirvana released its second album, Nevermind, with the hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

  1. POGs were the top-selling holiday gift.

  1. Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” song hit the top of the music charts

But in all seriousness, it is well past time to raise the tipped minimum wage. One-quarter of tipped workers are women of color and nearly one-third of female tipped workers are mothers (and almost half of those are single parents). Tipped workers are twice as likely to live in poverty as other workers. Additionally, the share of tipped workers who report receiving hourly wages below the full minimum wage (counting their tips!) is more than 2.5 times higher than workers overall—indicating that they may be victims of wage theft.  In eight states, however, employers are required to pay their tipped employees the regular minimum wage, before tips—and in those states, average poverty rates among tipped workers are lower, and average wage gaps are smaller, than in states that follow the $2.13 federal standard. Now Congress needs to take the same approach and enact one fair minimum wage for workers across the country.