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Restaurant workers concerned about proposal to increase wages

By Killian Maree

For the North Star Reporter

A proposal called the Massachusetts Minimum Wage for Tipped Employees Initiative may be on the ballot this fall, phasing out the separate wage for employees who make tips.

Should this ballot question be passed, those who earn tips would be required to be paid the minimum wage.

Many waiters and restaurant owners are worried about what the proposal would do to the restaurant industry. 

The process would take years, the full plan not going into effect until Jan. 1, 2029. Nevertheless, restaurant employees are nervous about the proposal, because if it’s put into place, being able to afford to keep staff employed could become too expensive.

Right now, waiters make a lower wage compared to other workers, because their tips make up for the difference. Should their wages wind up lower than the minimum wage, their employers need to make up the difference. Abby Bagtaz, a waiter at the Yard House in Dedham, was unsure about the idea of the initiative.

“I don’t know how to feel, because you know you’ll be secure with an hourly pay but also working as a server, you make enough with tips,” said Bagtaz.

Bagtaz also said that waiters are not the people who necessarily deserve the raise in pay, either. Waiters get an hourly wage plus tips, while the bussers, cooks and food runners do not always get tips, even though they might be doing more work.

Katie Cerrone, the owner of KC’s Burger Bar in North Attleborough and Mack’s Original Pizza Pub in Seekonk, also has her doubts about the proposed bill. According to Cerrone, the bill being passed might mean that waiters would be eliminated from her restaurants completely, getting rid of the family-friendly, homey feel that Cerrone prides her restaurants on having.

“We would have to start thinking about transitioning to a casual kind of business model instead of full service, so maybe getting rid of waiters and waitresses entirely and doing kiosks at the table,” said Cerrone.

If the initiative is put into place, the first increase in pay would be 64% of the state minimum wage on Jan. 1, 2025.

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