Hillary Clinton on Thursday called for an end to what she called the “disgrace” of what’s known as the tipped minimum wage, despite several cases in which the Democratic presidential candidate herself allegedly stiffed waitresses and other service workers.
Clinton has already advocated for an increase to the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour, but she hadn’t broached the idea of overhauling the dual-track system that allows companies to pay employees who earn tips a lower hourly wage.
“That’s why I am running to raise the minimum wage — to end the disgrace of something called the tipped minimum wage,” Clinton told supporters at a “Women for Hillary” campaign event in Columbus, Ohio Thursday.
The federal minimum wage for employees who earn a substantial portion of their income in tips is $2.13 an hour. Eighteen states are in line with the federal standard. Some states like California and Oregon require tipped employees to be paid at least $9 an hour.
“You may not know about this,” Clinton continued. “This is where if you work in certain jobs like in a hair salon or you’re a waitress or maybe a bartender, you can in some states in our country be paid only $2.13 an hour, because the idea is, you’re supposed to make up the rest in tips.”
Restaurateurs generally support the system, saying that a tip-based scale incentivizes better service and creates a better dining experience for patrons. But a growing number of activists have called for an overhaul to the industry norm.
Clinton asserted that many tipped employees are ripped off by their employers.
“And you know what happens?” Clinton asked the Columbus crowd. “That money doesn’t get to the people who earned it. Wages are actually stolen.”
“So we’re going to end that. We’re going to raise the minimum wage with no exceptions for everybody.”
At a Labor Day rally in Illinois earlier this week, Clinton said that she supported tougher enforcement on labor laws, saying that if she is president she will “make sure that some employers go to jail for wage theft and all the other abuses that they engage in.”
In a statement to The Daily Caller, the National Restaurant Association disputed many of Clinton’s claims.
“We should establish that there is no such thing as a subminimum wage,” said Christin Fernandez, a spokeswoman for the trade group.
“Tipped employees are guaranteed the federal minimum wage or higher in many states,” she added, noting that “employers are required under law to ensure tipped employees are made whole if their salary and tips do not meet the required minimum wage.”
Fernandez said that her organization’s research shows that tipped employees are the highest-paid employees in the establishment, “regularly earning between $16 and $22 an hour.”
Clinton has a history of failing to tip service workers. In April, she famously declined to put anything in the tip jar during a stop at a Chipotle restaurant in Ohio. The incident sparked a debate over whether tipping was customary at Chipotle since customers order at a cash register.
NEXT PAGE: Failed To Tip Servers At Traditional Restaurants
But she’s also failed to tip servers at traditional restaurants.
In February 2000, when she was running for a Senate seat in New York, Clinton failed to tip a waitress after the owner of the restaurant she ate at covered her tab. Clinton later apologized to the waitress, who earned $2.90 an hour before tips. The candidate sent her a $100 savings bond. (RELATED: Hillary Has A History Of Stiffing Waitresses, Hair Stylists)
Clinton was involved in another tip flap in October 2007. A waitress at a restaurant in Toledo, Iowa said in an NPR interview at the time that Clinton and her campaign staff failed to leave her and several co-workers a tip after lunch. The campaign claimed it left $100 on the table, but the waitress and her colleagues denied the claim.
The waitress, a single mother of two named Anita Esterday, took issue not only with the non-tip but also with Clinton using her as an example on the campaign trail of a struggling working mom.
After the story gained media attention, a Clinton campaign staffer reportedly went back to the restaurant and gave Esterday $20.
And in December 1994, it was reported that the then-First Lady failed to tip a hair stylist she hired before a Summit of the Americas event in Miami. Clinton and Tipper Gore, who was then married to Vice President Al Gore, had their hair styled at a local salon. While Clinton stiffed her stylist, Gore left a generous $90 gratuity for hers, according to the Miami Herald.
“I was very surprised,” Clinton’s stylist told the Herald.