Photo by Katherine Harris
Dear Madam Mayor,
I’m having a hard time bringing all my thoughts together on your latest post about the tip credit. Pardon me if I don’t let you change the name for your own political advantage, it’s commonly known in the 43 states where it’s employed as a tip credit or tipped minimum wage or tiered wage, not a tip penalty. Words matter, but you know that.
I think the reason I’m having a hard time is that you continue to present our industry as a dystopian reality that is electrified with injustice and evil. With all due respect Madam Mayor, where have you been eating? Not in town, I assure you. I eat out professionally, on multiple days every week, in various places from taco shops to bistros, and as a woman who has spent her last 22 years working in and among restaurants in town, as both a tipped and non-tipped human, I have to say that I am deeply offended by your demonization of this industry in your quest to push forth bench-marking politics.
You said, “…research clearly shows that the more that women are forced to rely on tips for income, the more likely they are to be sexually harassed. Think about it. I simply cannot countenance a scheme that would actually keep tipped women workers at a lower wage and continue to subject them to sexual harassment. It is unconscionable to me.” So is it the tips part of the income that’s causing this? You seem to be implying that if you give them more hourly money, they’ll automatically not be harassed? Or will they be leaving these better paying jobs so that they don’t have to be harassed? Or will they magically be unaffected by harassment because they now have so many dollars? What are you saying? Your case is unclear.
What is clear is that you used those words to incite, to paint a picture of tipped women as needing your protection. And every time you wrote “especially women” I couldn’t shake the feeling that you see us as toddlers. Again, where you have you been eating? I can report that the VAST majority of women working as tipped employees are asskickers of the first order who have chosen a profession in service which means you put the self second, and sometimes that puts you in the fire line of egregious assholes. I'm not quite sure how it is different for women who are harassed while at work at movie theaters, or dental offices, or parking garages where there are no tips, what are you planning to do for them? For you to insinuate that you will swoop in and give them more dollars and somehow save them from harassment, Madame Mayor, is what is truly unconscionable. The feeling among many of these women, is that you are riding the wave of feminism and using them to further your goals, without truly listening to them. But I suspect you will hear from them, and very soon.
The fact that you would equate tipping with slavery, one of the most abhorrent systems in human history, to court outrage and support your cause, is beyond disgusting to me. To compare today’s restaurant owners with those in the past who didn’t comprehend humanity just shows that you still really, really don’t get it. I defy you to find a more giving industry, name another that regularly shows up at all the fundraisers, gives gift cards for silent auctions, allows start up business to pop-up in their locations so that the employees can one day become owners too. It seems that you desperately need this to be seen as an US vs. THEM situation, you are promoting division. When you continually refer to solutions proposed by the small businesses that are trying to find a way to survive this massive increase as "compromise" complete with quotes, you belittle them, you snidely create around them an aura that they are no different than McDonald's. Your locally grown independent restaurants, your constituents who most likely started out as servers and cooks, don’t want to see their employees suffer, especially in this tight labor market. It benefits no one. They understand that change is needed in this fluctuating service landscape, but you who don’t understand the business or the culture, are not the one to mandate it. They are working hard to come up with creative solutions at Pathway to $15, a coalition that wants to support owners and all service employees. But they tell me they feel largely unheard by you, that your listening sessions are just pandering, that your drive to put us into this experiment with bigger cities like Seattle and San Francisco is what is most important to you. I dare you to prove us wrong.
So as I’ve already written about why I think a local variation of a tip credit is the right idea if you’re going to raise the wage to $15/hour, I plan to let the restaurants and workers (especially women) have their say next week. For now I will just use this space to say how disappointed in your service I am, Madam Mayor, though as I am a hospitalitarian, I will still leave you a tip: It's an election year, go work a shift in a few restaurants and learn what it really means to honorably put the self second.