NEW YORK (PIX11) — New York’s Attorney General Letitia James stated restaurant workers are being ripped off as the city and state grapple with a lack of manpower in the crucial restaurant industry. 

She gathered with advocates to say that the solution is simple, give restaurant workers a proper minimum wage. 

Among those rallying with James was server Bernice Garcia of Queens. Who has had her share of bad bosses. 
“I noticed he wasn’t even paying me minimum wage, he was paying me less than minimum wage,” she recalled of a recent manager. “I told him ‘That’s illegal’ and he said ‘no, you’re illegal.’” 

Restaurant workers in New York City only have to be paid $10 per hour, five dollars less than the standard $15 per hour.  
But the legal requirement is that the difference be made up in tips. 
Now a new study sponsored by the advocacy group “One Fair Wage” has found that, especially after the pandemic, many workers are leaving the business because they suffer discrimination and wage theft by their bosses. 

Plus, many find it difficult to get unemployment insurance if they do find themselves out of work. 

“There’s a lot of people I’ve seen go away because they’re like ‘I’m not making no money on tips and if the pay is not good, why am I going to stick around,’” Garcia said. 

At the rally, James promised to root out wage theft, which impacts about 2 million New Yorkers every year to the tune of $3 Billion. 

However, James and those gathered want to go one step further. 

“It is a damn shame that New York City is one of the few major American cities where tipped workers are paid less than minimum wage,” James said. 

These advocates and their partners in Albany want one unified minimum wage for everyone whether you make tips or not. 

They argue the cities and states where this has already happened— have seen the benefits of a more robust restaurant industry for both business owners and workers.