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Without tipping credit, I can’t afford my job

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Marlene; I started as a server and currently work as a bartender at a popular locally owned Albuquerque winery and bistro. I possess 13 years of hospitality experience.

I am writing in response to proposed legislation, House Bill 31. It is minimum wage legislation eliminating the tip credit for persons within the hospitality industry.

I attended college and possess a solid understanding of economics, government and history, yet I choose to be a server. It is the best wage I can earn in the fewest, most flexible hours worked – even with a higher education and other marketable skills.

I love my job and make a reasonable living. I work hard for the money I earn and feel fairly compensated by my company.

What some people, even some servers, may not understand is that the server/restaurant relationship is perfectly symbiotic. A restaurant offers servers a product, a facility, advertising, supporting staff such as kitchen personnel, leadership management and an accounting staff. In return, management hires a salesperson who is willing to work as front-line staff on behalf of the customer to ensure we offer a great dining experience, to make a guest feel like family.

We work for a commission – tip – on top of the legal server minimum wage of $2.14. As a customer, you tip according to the service you receive. Personally, ending the tip credit would make this job no longer viable as a career choice. Based on my research, servers in California are only averaging $11.84 per hour after the tip credit was eliminated. Studies show that the average server in Albuquerque is making $19 to $25 an hour.

Additionally, if lawmakers eliminate the tip credit, many restaurants will have to raise menu prices for an increase in minimum wages for everyone. Why make eating out so much more expensive?

The current tip credit makes it affordable for many families to live in cities they love, such as Santa Fe. For my own family’s interest, returning to my trained field as an automotive technician would cause a severe decrease in my earning potential and consequently spending power. I am not unique in this situation. Many college students considering other careers such as doctors, lawyers, police officers, engineers and school teachers work in the industry to earn and save money during the summer months before returning to college. Other professionals who are not earning enough obtain employment as servers to supplement their income. They enjoy the flexibility and true earning potential a server can make. Consider the many single parents or moms who only work as a server while the kids are in school so they can provide for their families.

The fault in the logic is obvious. As the price of producing goods and services goes up, so do prices. Wages, however, can never keep up without lots of job casualties and time.

This bill is a Band-Aid on a missing appendage. We don’t need a higher minimum wage. We need better jobs. We need better accessible education. We need higher English literacy rates in our workforce. Still, the proponents of this bill are ignoring the truth of the real numbers from other states that have enacted these failing policies.

States with the highest wages and no tipping credits are actually suffering across the economic board – especially in the populations this type of legislation is aimed at helping.

Please, New Mexico legislators, keep my generational home state a place I can afford to live. Please, do not support the tip credit elimination in this bill. And if this legislation passes both the New Mexico House and Senate, I hope Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a candidate I supported and voted for during her election, does not sign this bill. It will hurt not only my family, but many others like mine.