CORNING, N.Y. (WENY) -- Local restaurant owners and lawmakers are pushing back on a plan that would increase minimum wage for tip-earning employees.
Currently, servers receive a combined $10.40 per hour. The Governor's proposal would increase that number to $15 per hour.
If it happens, local restaurants say other employees would suffer.
"Who's left? The middle. The heart of what our industry is--the kitchen," says Mike Sullivan, Owner of the Hill Top Inn Restaurant in Elmira. "We all know if the food's no good, you're not coming back. The heart of our industry are these people who are now getting squeezed out."
They also say mo e jobs would be lost and menu prices would skyrocket.
Another concern lawmakers have is the Southern Tier not being heard. They say with so many areas like Corning's Market Street, relying on small, family-owned restaurants, a move like this could mean a huge change for our area's restaurant industry.
"It's a great asset to our tourism industry that we've worked so hard to grow in the area," says Senator Tom O'Mara. "If we lose restaurants, we lose the ability to attract the travelers we want to come here and to stay longer here."
Tipped-workers themselves are also opposing the plan -- saying the current, decades old system works just fine.
"Destruction of small businesses means destruction of the employees who work for them as well," says Nicole King, an employee of Sorge's Restaurant in Corning. "I'm a single mom and I'm working on my third degree. If it wasn't for the restaurant industry, I wouldn't be where I am today."
The state Labor Department will hold hearings on the issue in Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo. Lawmakers are asking all local restaurant owners to consider attending, or submit their concerns to email@example.com before July 1, 2018.
Anyone interested in attending and/or speaking at any of the hearings can find more information and per-register t the department's website www.labor.ny.gov.