A Florida Senate committee has followed the advice of a restaurant association and passed a bill that would cut the minimum wage for tipped workers by more than half.

The bill, SB 2106, would slash the current Florida tipped minimum wage of of $4.65 an hour to the federal standard of of $2.13 an hour, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Restaurants would have to promise that employees would make at least $9.98 an hour with tips to qualify for the new wage.

“We are being brave and bold and being statesmen and not politicians,” Republican state Sen. Nancy Detert, the committee's chair, asserted, adding that the bill had been requested by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce have also expressed support for the bill.

"I'd like to see restaurants stay in business so more people can be hired," Republican state Sen. Paula Dockery told WESH. "But I have heard from a lot of tipped employees that have expressed opposition to this."

One of those restaurant employees, Charles Spencer, is working at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant in Orlando to pay for his education. He told the Sentinel that the $11 or $12 an hour he currently makes barely pays the bills.

"It's a lot of canned vegetables and grilled chicken and ramen noodles," Spencer explained. "I was rather appalled by the fact they're going to try to cut a wage standard in this economy."

The Florida AFL-CIO's Rich Templin said that the bill would effectively mean a more than $2.50 an hour pay cut for a waitress currently making $14 an hour.

"When we hear that this proposal could guarantee 130 percent of the minimum wage and that excites us a little bit… but what we have found, at the end of the day, you were still looking at a $2.52 cent reduction in their base rate," he said.

"They're doing this because it benefits employers," labor attorney Loren Donnell explained to the Tampa Bay Times. "In this economy, you're talking about lowering an even subminimum wage requirement."

Cindy Berg, who has been a server for 20 years, has already seen her income cut as tips dried up in the economic downturn.

"Those days of 15 percent tippers, and 20 percent tippers and Christmas tippers are gone," she remarked. "They are gone."

"My husband works 60 to 70 hours a week. I work 40, and we're still barely making it," she added. "I've never been in this position in my life. ... It's just tougher and tougher and tougher."

Research by the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment of the University of California, Berkeley determined that female employees are hit the hardest by the lower-wage server jobs.

"The sub-minimum wage hits women hard because 72.9 percent of tipped workers are women compared to less than half the overall labor force," researcher Sylvia A. Allegretto told WeNews. "The federal tipped minimum wage was originally 50 percent of the regular minimum wage, but it has eroded over time to just 29.4 percent of the current minimum wage for all workers because it has been frozen since 1991 unlike the federal minimum wage, which was raised in 2007."

Allegretto's research has shown that women relying on tips already make 83 cents less per hour than do their male counterparts.

Photo: Flickr/Adam Croot