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Lawmakers don aprons, take orders at West Hartford restaurant in push for minimum wage legislation

Legislators say the hourly wage increase is long overdue, however, some people say workers will lose more money in the long run.

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — A group of lawmakers had their aprons on and their notepads out on Friday morning as they waited on customers at one West Hartford restaurant.

It's called "Server for an Hour" and it was to draw attention to legislation that would increase the minimum wage for tipped workers across the state. 

But not everyone is in agreement. 

Sen. Julie Kushner, who represents the 24th district, had her apron on taking all those orders for eggs and bacon during the Friday breakfast rush. 

"I am working a table and it brings me back to when I was a kid and I did this work," said Julie Kushner, a State Senator for the 24th district. 

She's one of seven state senators fighting for an increase in tipped workers’ hourly pay. 

"We’re trying to highlight and recognize the importance and the value in the hard work that goes into being wait staff," said Kushner. 

Legislation currently before the labor committee would eliminate the $6.38 an-hour pay for tipped workers across the state.  

"They’re supposed to get tips to bring them to the real minimum wage and it’s a really challenging wage and lifestyle," said Saru Jayaraman, the president of One Fair Wage. 

The bill would impact nearly 70,000 workers across the state, allowing them to bring home the soon-to-be $15-an-hour wage, with tips on top.

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But some fear the move will hurt restaurants, and actually hurt servers.

Scoot Dolch, CEO and President of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, said the issue shouldn't be addressed via legislation because it's not a "one-size-fits-all" problem.

"We have to make sure the restaurants have this opportunity because they’ve been hurting so much, we’ve been talking about this over the last three years trying to recover after the pandemic, and to see legislation like this is very disheartening," he said.

Dolch said it's a federal law every server has to make the minimum wage rate. But he said on average, workers make between $33 and $38 an hour, factoring in their tips. 

He said if restaurants have to pay more in wages, servers may have to give up some of their tips because profit margins aren't big enough to keep restaurants afloat. 

"They'll have to find $9 or $10 an hour in addition to paying their other bills and other staff," said Dolch. 

However, lawmakers said the increase is long overdue. 

"That’s just not fair and it’s just not enough," said Kushner. 

While this legislation remains controversial, it’s possible a decision could be made this legislative session.

Lindsey Kane is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at Lkane@fox61.com. Follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram


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