Minimum Wage Policy Statement Involving Tipped and Other Service Workers
Adopted June 2021
Description: The final report of the World Health Organization Commission on Social Determinants of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health Disparities and Inequalities Report identified income as a key factor influencing the health outcomes of individuals, families, and communities (Baron, Steege, Marsh, Menendez, Myers. 2013; World Health Organization Committee on the Social Determinates of Health, 2008) As described in the Healthy People 2020 report from the US Department of Health and Human Services (2020), financial capacity shapes individual and population health by influencing the degree to which an individual’s basic needs are met as well as other social determinants of health, such as safe housing and communities, educational achievement, and job opportunities (USDHHS, 2020). Those earning lower wages face significant barriers to safe and healthy environments and resources which support health (USDHHS, 2020).
By contrast, the concept of a living wage, or a wage reflecting the actual income needed to meet minimum standards of living, allows people to meet an array of basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, transportation, child care, and medical care (Bhatia and Katz, 2001). More than a decade’s worth of research indicates that increasing the minimum wage to a livable wage is an effective means of improving public health across many settings (Leigh, 2016).
As of January 1, 2021 the minimum wage in Vermont was raised from $10.96 per hour to $11.75 and is set to increase again on January 1, 2022 to $12.55 (Vermont, 2020); however, many workers in Vermont are exempted from these minimum wage requirements. Service employees who earn more than $120 per month in the hotel, motel, tourist, and restaurant industries are subjected to a minimum wage equivalent to one half of the State minimum wage. In Vermont, as of May 2019, approximately 26,280 workers were involved in food services (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019). Of those food service workers at least 8,640 worked as wait staff, bartenders, or in other tipped positions (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019). Many tipped workers are undoubtedly employed in the hotel, motel, and tourist industries but their numbers are not readily available in labor statistics. These exempted workers, many of whom are women and people of color, play a vital role in the Vermont economy, help to ensure an accessible food supply and support to the lodging industry; however, many of these individuals are not assured the minimal wage or livable wages.
A sustainable economy and food system must integrate just and equitable labor practices which includes ensuring that labor laws are extended to tipped service workers who were formerly excluded from such protections as minimum wage requirements.
Relationship to Existing Policy Statements:
Policy Statement: The VtPHA supports the right of all people to earn a living wage sufficient to support a dignified existence. Meaningful and safe work, properly compensated is key to public health.
Supported Actions: Recognizing that historically underserved populations, predominantly women and people of color, are disproportionately represented among workers in service industries which are exempted from State minimum wage standards; the VtPHA supports removing exemptions from minimum wage requirements for all workers.
Even applying the Vermont minimum wage to all workers will still leave a
large number of these workers, particularly those living in single earner
households, with inadequate income to support a livable wage, a dignified and
Baron SL, Steege AL,
Marsh SM, Menéndez CC, Myers JR. CDC health disparities and inequalities
report—United States, 2013. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2013;62(suppl 3):35–40.
Bhatia R, Katz M. Estimation of health benefits from a local living wage ordinance. Am J Public Health. 2001;91:1398–1402.
Leigh JP. Could raising the minimum wage improve the public’s health? Am J Public Health. 2016;106:1355–1356.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2019. State Occupational Employment Statistics: Vermont. Accessed from https://labor.vermont.gov/sites/labor/files/doc_library/Information%20on%20tips.pdf on January 23, 2021.
US Department of Health and Human Services. Determinants of health: Healthy People 2020. Available at: http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/about/foundation-health-measures/Determinants-of-Health. Accessed January 16, 2021.
Vermont. 2020. An Act Relating to Increasing the Minimum Wage, Vermont. Stat.§23 (2020) accessed from: https://legislature.vermont.gov/Documents/2020/Docs/BILLS/S-0023/S-0023%20House%20proposal%20of%20amendment%20Official.pdf on January 23, 2021
World Health Organization Committee on the Social Determinants of Health. Closing the gap in a generation. Available at: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/43943/1/9789241563703_eng.pdf. Accessed January 16, 2021.
About the association
VtPHA is a membership organization which facilitates collaboration among people who care about public health and are interested in protecting and promoting the health of Vermont residents.
VtPHA is an Affiliate of the American Public Health Association (APHA). APHA is the national voice of public health and champions the health of all people and all communities. They are the only organization that combines a 140-plus year perspective, the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health and a member community from all public health disciplines and over 40 countries. Learn more at www.apha.org.
Copyright © 2018 Vermont Public Health Association. All rights reserved.