Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
Owners Katie Molchan and Elaina Holko's Mixtape is Worker Approved
, a Garfield dance lounge, music gallery, cafe and event space, announced it had joined the ranks of local businesses that are raising wages for their employees and providing paid sick leave.
"[We're] giving our employees a work environment where they can be comfortable knowing no matter what day they come in, they'll be able to pay their bills, that it's going to be a stable wage." says owner Katie Molchan. "Obviously it does mean as a startup it's going to take us longer to reach a point of profitability, but we felt really strongly that was a really important to send a message to our staff and our team. They shouldn't have to bear the brunt of losses if we have a slow day."
Today's press conference is part of a local movement to increase wages for service workers and improve employee benefits like paid sick leave. Today's speakers highlighted what they see as problems with the current system that allows tipped workers to be paid below the minimum wage.
"The same people who put food on our table can't afford to put food on their table," said Jordan Romanus, lead organizer with the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Pittsburgh. "In Pennsylvania, the medium income for a tipped work is less than $13,000. To top it all off, the tipped minimum wage hasn't been raised in over 17 years. That's an entire class of workers who haven't seen a raise in nearly two decades."
According to a study by the mobile-payment application Square, Alaska — the state where the minimum wage for tipped workers is $8.75 an hour — actually tips more than any other state. In Delaware, the state that tips the least, the tipped minimum wage is $2.23.
"Our solution to this problem is simple. We need to support businesses like Mixtape who do right by their employees, and secondly, we need to eliminate the tipped minimum wage. In the seven states that have done away with the two-tiered system, their poverty rates are lower, the restaurant receipts are actually higher, menu prices are not higher, and tipping is even better."
The press conference also marked the launch of Pittsburgh City Councilor Deb Gross' Worker Approved Businesses initiative, which is designed to highlight local businesses "paying family sustaining wages and treating their workers well."
"It's a part of the essence of Pittsburgh that we're all fighting for. We invest in each other. We are determined to be a community, and that means having a commitment to one another," said Deb Gross. "I hope that all of us will make it a priority to patronize businesses like Mixtape because they are investing in us."
This initiative follows several workers'-rights measures passed by city council, including an effort to promote small businesses
that have raised their wages to $10.10 an hour. And last year, Mayor Bill Peduto signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour over the next six years.
Last year, council also passed legislation for mandatory paid sick leave
, which is currently being challenged in Commonwealth Court by the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association. The City of Pittsburgh has until April 11 to file its appeal, and the case is expected to go to trial this summer.