The truth about tipping

    Medium US
    Business Spotlight Audio 3/2023
    server setting the tables in a restaurant
    © Louis Hansel/
    Von Talitha Linehan

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    In Europe, tipTrinkgeld; Trinkgeld gebentips are an added bonus that is paid on top of the bill as a “thank you” for good service. In the U.S., however, tips are an essential part of many restaurant workers’ income, as their wages are so low that they are unable to to make ends meetüber die Runden kommenmake ends meet without tips. Business Spotlight correspondent Talitha Linehan spoke to Saru Jayaraman, an American attorneyRechtsanwalt/ -anwältinattorney, author, activist and advocateFürsprecher(in)advocate for fair wages for restaurant workers in the U.S.

    Talitha: People would say, “Well, people make a lot of money from tipping, especially in big cities like Los Angeles and New York.” How would you respond to that?

    Saru: So, the vastweit, großvast majority of tipped workers are women, overwhelminglyüberwältigend; hier: überwiegendoverwhelmingly women, who largely work in very casualzwangloscasual restaurants: IHOP, Denny’s, Applebee’s, mom-and-pop diners. It’s a minuscule(winzig) kleinminuscule percentage of folks (ifml.)Leutefolks that work in fine dininggehobene Gastronomiefine dining restaurants, making a lot of money in tips. So, the vast majority of tipped workers actually are women, disproportionatelyüberproportionaldisproportionately women of color, disproportionally single mom (US)Alleinerziehendesingle moms, earning very little in tips. And you can see that from the government data. The government data shows actually tipped workers use food stampLebensmittelmarkefood stamps and other forms of public assistance at double the rate of the rest of the U.S. workforceErwerbsbevölkerungworkforce. They have a poverty rate that is three times the rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce. And so, they are mostly poor, and they suffer from the highest rates of sexual harassmentsexuelle Belästigungsexual harassment, poverty and racial inequityUngleichheitinequity of almost any industryhier: Brancheindustry in the United States. Because the other thing that’s been proven, pretty irrefutablyunbestreitbarirrefutably at this point, is that, unfortunately, tipping in the U.S. is not to correlate with etw. zusammenhängencorrelated with the quality of service of the server, it's correlated with the race and gender of the server.

    Talitha: And how likely do you think that it is for the system to change. What kind of resistance do you to encounter sth.etw. begegnenencounter to it?

    Saru: So, we’ve had 160 years of resistance from the National Restaurant Association, which we call “the other NRA.” I’m sure you’re familiar with the [National] rifleGewehrRifle Association — ridiculously powerful in the United States. It’s why many Europeans to scratch one’s headsich am Kopf kratzenscratch their heads as to why we have such ridiculously high rates of gun violence. It is because of the power of this corporateUnternehmens-; hier: Verbands-corporate lobby, the Rifle Association.

    Well, the same is true. You’re scratching your head — How could you possibly have a two-dollar wage in a developed country? Well, the same is true. We have another corporate lobby that’s ridiculously powerful, has too much influence, called the National Restaurant Association, led by the chains — the IHOPs, the Denny’s, the Applebee’s. They’ve been around since 1919, and they were formed intentionally to keep wages from going up. That’s been their sole purpose since 1919. And, it has been incrediblyunglaublichincredibly difficult to end the subminimum wage for tipped workers. Unfortunately, we’ve seen politicians from both major parties in the U.S. kind of to kowtow to sth.vor etw. katzbuckeln; hier: einknickenkowtow to the restaurant association, just as they do to the Rifle Association. However, we’re in a real moment of change right now. Millions of workers during the pandemic just realize this is not working. It’s the first time in U.S. history since the emancipation, millions of workers have left or are leaving and refusing to work for these wages. And so, it has had a huge impactWirkungimpact. You know, we’re seeing thousands of restaurants raise wages now to a full wage with tips on top. We don’t think workers will ever go back, you know, that refuse to work, will go back to two and three dollars. And so, now is the moment to really institutionalize through policy what we’re seeing happen in the restaurant industry. And we just had our first big victory a few weeks ago. Michigan became the eighth state to end the subminimum wage for tipped workers this November. D.C. and Portland, Maine, are about to do so as well. So many more states that are about to come in the coming months and years. And so, I think we’re finally on the to be on the cusp of der Schwelle zu etw. stehencusp of change right now.

    Talitha: Ok, wonderful, so basically, tipping would be what people think it is — just an incentiveAnreizincentive to provide better service and not something that’s necessary for workers to make a living wage?

    Saru: Yeah. So, I think what we’re seeing through the pandemic is a real renaissancehier: Wiederbelebungrenaissance or rebirth and redemptionWiedergutmachung; hier: Erlösungredemption of the restaurant industry. People are experimenting with all kinds of models. Some people are moving to what we call service charges, which is a set amount, like a 20 per cent service charge rather than having tips, which are inherentlyvon Haus ausinherently biasedunausgewogenbiased. Some people are to move to gratuity-freehier: sich vom Trinkgeld verabschiedenmoving to gratuity-free. I think what we’re about to see happen is — yes, wages are going to go up, tips are certainly going to end up being on top of a wage, and we’re going to see more and more experimentation with models like service charges, or potentially even gratuity-free models. But really, in general, what we’re seeing happen is a move towards professionalization of this industry. We’re, you know, a hundred years late, but that’s where we’re at right now — it’s workers saying we’re professionalFachkraftprofessionals and we deserve to be paid and treated and to compensate sb.jmdn. entlohnencompensated like professionals. And that means paid a wage, that means tips are just an extra, but it also means things like career ladderKarriereleitercareer ladders and set scheduleZeitplanschedules and benefitsZusatzleistungen (des Arbeitgebers)benefits and all the things that come with having a skilledhier: qualifiziertskilled profession, which this is.

    Talitha: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Saru. Have a lovely day.

    Saru: Thank you, you too!

    Talitha: Take care. Thanks. Bye-bye.

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