The tipped minimum wage has been $2.13 for decades : Planet Money The tipped minimum wage hasn't changed for decades. Is now finally the time? | Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.
NPR logo

The Even More Minimum Wage

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/976465414/978335093" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
The Even More Minimum Wage

The Even More Minimum Wage

The Even More Minimum Wage

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/976465414/978335093" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The tipped minimum wage hasn't changed for 30 years. SDI Productions/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
SDI Productions/Getty Images

The tipped minimum wage hasn't changed for 30 years.

SDI Productions/Getty Images

When Caroline Anzaldua started working as a waitress in Texas, she thought it was the perfect way to pay her way through college. She had watched other friends in the service industry bring home handfuls of cash in tips, and wanted a piece of the action.

But as it turned out, there are two sides to getting tips. Some days were a boom, and Caroline would make over three times the $7.25 federal minimum wage she made at her old job. But sometimes, she'd get no tips at all.

As a tipped worker, Caroline pay was dependent on strangers. And her base pay, the one guaranteed to be paid by her employer, was actually a different, much lower type of minimum wage: the subminimum or "tipped" minimum wage. Today, the federal government sets it at only $2.13. And it's been that low for almost three decades. Meanwhile, the federal government has increased the standard minimum wage on five different occasions.

Today, many prominent politicians are arguing to raise that tipped wage. By a lot.

The Raise the Wage Act aims to ensure a $15 minimum wage for tipped workers by 2027, over seven times the amount Caroline made in base pay as a waitress. But there are many who still argue that the cost to raise the wage is too high.

Today on the show: subminimum wages. An endless debate. And what it takes for servers to get a few dollars more.

Music: "Avenue A," "Hedonista," and "Blue Wave."

Find us: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / TikTok

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts and NPR One.

If you are looking for more bang for your economic news buck, subscribe to the Newsletter.