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At least five states are considering requiring full minimum wages for tip earners this year

Five states are deciding this year whether to ditch the practice of paying workers who earn tips less than the minimum wage. And activists say they’re bringing that fight to at least as many others, framing it as a key cost-of-living issue in an election year.

Ballot measures pending in Michigan, Arizona, Ohio and Massachusetts, and a bill being reintroduced in Connecticut would eliminate a longstanding two-tiered pay system for tip-earning hourly workers like restaurant servers and bartenders, who earn a lower “subminimum” wage than their nontipped counterparts.

Only seven states already pay a single minimum wage regardless of tips. While more than two dozen others have raised subminimum pay for tip earners above the federal $2.13-an-hour floor — a rate last increased in 1991 — those workers still earn less in base pay than their states’ minimum wage.

Employers are required to make up the difference whenever tips don’t add up to the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour, but labor advocates and researchers say that rarely happens consistently.

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