Considerable pay raises await millions of American restaurant workers when they show up for work in 2017. According to the AP, hourly pay in the new year will increase for minimum-wage earners in 19 different states, plus there are another 22 cities around the country that are also enacting their own wage hikes. Workers demanding a $15 living wage have a few more years until that threshold kicks in, but the highest hourly rate for a state on January 1 will climb to $11, in both Massachusetts and Washington, with several others like California coming in right behind with $10.50.
New York workers are getting some of the country’s most generous increases, but also perhaps the most complicated. The state will have a total of six minimum wages that vary by job type and cost of living: one for New York City’s fast-food workers ($12 an hour), and another for fast-food workers elsewhere in the state ($10.75). Minimum-wage earners who don’t work in fast food get a separate sliding pay scale: Workers in New York City with at least ten coworkers will earn $11, it will be $10 in the suburbs, and everywhere else it’s $9.70 an hour.
Unsurprisingly, none of the raises thrill restaurant owners. They couldn’t stop the increases with lawyers, so now they’re stuck trying to find ways to offset the rising costs. In an interview with the Post, Jon Bloostein, the owner of New York’s Heartland Brewery, argues they can’t afford to raise the more senior-level kitchen staff’s pay, so that new $11 wage comes dangerously close to what they already pull in. “It completely screws us up,” he says. He predicts the company will probably cave and raise everybody’s pay anyway, since “a cook doesn’t want to earn what a dishwasher makes.” Other chain franchisees have simply laid people off — one that operates 38 Applebee’s restaurants in the New York area axed 700 of its 3,500 workers. Many of these restaurateurs say the only hope now is for the city to overturn its ban on so-called “administration fees.” They claim even a 4 percent surcharge on checks could make up for all the new labor costs.