Raising the minimum wage has been a frequent topic of discussion in recent years, but few mention how far the minimum wage for tip workers is lagging behind. The federal minimum wage is $ 7.25 an hour, but the minimum wage for waiters and hotel workers is only $ 2.13. In Illinois, our minimum wage is $ 11 (until it is increased in 2022) and the tip wage is $ 6.60.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to make up the difference when workers do not earn minimum wage with their tips added to the waiter’s salary. However, it is often the responsibility of workers to force their employers to make up the difference depending on the Center for American Progress. It is very difficult to stand up to your employer, especially when it comes to compensation. Salary theft is the most common form of theft Institute for Economic Policy. More than twice as many are lost in salary theft as theft, for a total of $ 933 million in 2012. The same study found that five out of six restaurants had committed some form of salary theft – whether in outside of work, lack of overtime or stolen tips.
By forcing the majority of workers’ incomes to depend on tips, they are held hostage by the whims of customers. According to Institute for Economic Policy, two-thirds of tip workers are women. With the ability to pay the bills in the hands of customers, tip workers are forced to endure misogyny, racism, and other forms of fanaticism. Workers are also expected to bond emotionally with customers to get better tips, which places undue emotional labor on them, especially women.
Tipping workers are expected to listen to the stories of chatty customers and show them sympathy, forming an artificial bond with them similar to a parasocial relationship. There is also widespread sexual harassment of female workers which is often not controlled by management. This required unpaid emotional labor also shows how undervalued âfeminineâ characteristics are in the workforce and is related to the concept of pink collar jobs and the gender division of labor.
Tipping in the United States also has its origins in racism and labor exploitation. According to the Center for American Progress, tipping began in the United States after emancipation when white employers wanted to avoid paying freed African Americans. It also left their livelihood in the hands of racist customers. This story adds yet another reason to leave the practice of mandatory tipping behind.
Many European countries like Switzerland do not require tips and pay their workers the full value of their wages. I don’t see why the United States should be any different. Some argue that the move to a general minimum wage will result in lower income for waiters, but tips should not be eliminated entirely. Many U.S. customers assume that tips should correlate with quality of service, but failing to automatically tip 15 to 20 percent can hurt a worker’s income. By giving tip workers the regular minimum wage, while allowing them to collect tips, they will be able to exercise more agency when they are mistreated by customers.
Labor exploitation has a long history in America and customers should not be expected to subsidize the wages of workers. Of course, people should always tip their waiters and delivery drivers and if you can’t afford to tip, you probably shouldn’t be eating out anyway. We need consumers to rally with service workers to quit this practice and get people the pay they deserve.