Montgomery County restaurant employees question new bill changing how tipped workers are paid

In Montgomery County, food service workers who rely on tips say they have big concerns about a proposal that could change how they get paid. 

At issue is new legislation headed to the county council raising what employers must pay tipped staff but some workers say in the end, it could mean less money for them. 

It’s a familiar problem. D.C. already had an intense fight over it that ended in Initiative 82

Now, in Montgomery County, the proposed law would overhaul how tipped workers like bartenders and servers are paid, especially in restaurants and bars where it's traditional. 

The bill proposes raising the tipped minimum wage, starting with a bump to $4 and then $8 in July 2024. That would then be followed by $2 yearly increases until 2028. 

But at some restaurants, employees expressed concern that could create confusion for customers and many want to keep the current tipping system.

"The fact is they want to come in and have the restaurants charging a service fee would have to charge a service fee and customers don’t know who that’s going to," said bartender Dan Coss, who added that he feels he "100%" earns more with tips. 

"We just want to keep things simple. Keep it user-friendly because not only as a restaurant operator but sometimes as a guest at other restaurants, you want the bill to come, if the service is good you tip accordingly," said Scott Feldman, owner of Giuseppi's Pizza in Rockville. 

The bill’s sponsor is Democratic Council member Will Jawando, who is also running for the U.S. Senate

Jawando worked in a restaurant in his lead-up to crafting the bill. He says eight other states including D.C. have raised the minimum wage for tipped workers and concerns that customers would stop tipping are in his view unfounded.

"We can do both. We can have people get a fair wage and you can have tips on top, and in the states that are doing this and have been doing It longer in other jurisdictions, you see that there’s a normalization period and people get used to paying it if its a service charge or an extra 25 cents on a hamburger," Jawando said. 

State lawmakers in Annapolis have also been considering raising the minimum wage for tipped workers in the state and that’s met with resistance from the 

Maryland Restaurant Association. Jawando tells FOX 5 he’ll introduce the bill next month in September and expects to hold hearings in the fall.