Activists are fighting for $15 minimum wage - these are the 16 states where it’s been $2 an hour since 1991

Sandra Salathe
Thursday 01 April 2021 17:51
A waiter delivers food to a customer during dinner at Galatoire's Restaurant on May 22, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The City of New Orleans((Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images))

Being a hard-working American has its own set of challenges. That’s even more true if you’re a tipped employee, whose household income relies largely on gratuities from patrons.

Since 2009, the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 - but for tipped employees, the federal minimum wage is a meagre $2.13 - and it hasn’t changed since 1991.

Some lawmakers are keen to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025, which is precisely what the Raise the Wage Act would ensure. Reintroduced in Congress on January 26, the act would not only bump minimum wage up to $15 per hour, it would also eliminate the sub-minimum wage.

Employees currently receiving sub-minimum wage, such as tipped workers and some disabled workers, are paid a smaller base rate. Tipped employees of color suffer greater under the current system, according to data from Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.

Many activists argue tipping systems are unreliable and shouldn’t be the overall source for one’s wages. While a good shift might see someone comfortably surpass $15 an hour in pay, a quiet shift could leave a tipped employee with around $50 for a 12-hour shift.

Of course, not all states share this same sentiment. In certain states, employers are required to pay their workers more than the federal tipped minimum wage.

Eight states have eliminated the tipped minimum wage altogether, making sure workers take home the full minimum wage that everyone else in the state can get.

These include Washington, Oregon, and California.

In addition, 26 states and the District of Columbia offer tipped employees a minimum wage higher than $2.13.

For the full list of states with the rock-bottom sub-minimum wage, see below.

  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Kentucky
  • Indiana
  • Tennessee
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • Texas
  • Nebraska
  • Kansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Utah