A statewide bill to increase the minimum wage failed in Baton Rouge last week. Now, Louisiana workers are taking the issue to the federal level.
A group of mostly restaurant workers gathered in front of the New Orleans office of Senator Mary Landrieu on Monday to deliver a simple message: Minimum wage earners work hard, but often struggle to make ends meet.
The goal was to convince Senator Landrieu to support a bill moving through the US Congress this week that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Right now, it’s $7.25 an hour. And for tipped workers, like restaurant servers, employers are required by law to pay only $2.13 per hour.
Server Alexandra Weiss says that number has been too low for too long.
"The tipped minimum wage has been at $2.13 for 23 years," Weiss says. "That’s back when I was learning to add and subtract, and now I know that’s way too little for us to make. Its extremely hard for us to live off $2.13 an hour. Right now we’re living shift to shift."
But the bill faces stiff opposition from business leaders, who point to a February study by the Congressional Budget Office estimating that a wage increase would eliminate about 500,000 jobs.
Groups like the Louisiana Restaurant Association say that any raise in the minimum wage would be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher costs.
But Weiss says that studies conducted by Restaurant Opportunities Center United have found just the opposite — that eliminating the subminimum wage for restaurant workers increases restaurant sales and strengthens the restaurant industry.