News that a prominent New York restaurateur is eliminating tips is good news, but it's not nearly enough, writes Saru Jayaraman in the New York Times. The director of Berkeley's Food Labor Research Institute isn't talking about diners' convenience. She makes the case that tipping is un-American, the holdover of an antiquated practice first embraced by employers to get away with paying their workers little or nothing. Today, it still forces tipped workers—mostly women and minorities—to live with lower wages. In New York, for example, the governor is behind a plan to create a $15 minimum wage, but, as is typical, it's expected to exclude tipped workers. This group suffers through a "subminimum wage" that is a paltry $2.13 on the federal level.
The idea is that workers will make up the difference in tips, but most work in places such as IHOP and Applebee's, not high-priced restaurants. "Worse still, this two-tiered system is the reason the restaurant industry is the single largest source of sexual harassment claims in the United States," writes Jayaraman. "Women forced to live on tips are compelled to tolerate inappropriate and degrading behavior from customers, co-workers and managers in order to make a living." It's time for legislators across the US to take action, because the injustice is baked right into our laws. It's time to do away with the lower minimum wage for tipped workers, she argues. "As long as this unfair system that dates from the days of slavery persists, neither progressivism nor women’s equality will be realized." Click for the full column.