Writing at the Washington Times, Mike Paranzino chronicles the latest Big Labor crusade, this time against tipping. When I first saw the headline, I spent a few moments frowning and trying to remember what arcane business or high-finance practice might have become known by the nickname “tipping.” I even briefly considered the possibility that unionized agricultural workers were going after the old drunken prank of cow-tipping.
But no, Paranzino is talking about the simple and time-honored practice of tipping waiters and waitresses, not some Wall Street maneuver. Here’s a fun little exercise: take a moment before reading on, and try to guess why labor unions would have a problem with tipping – a major source of income for hard-working people, including a lot of young people trying to pay their way through college.
Ready for the answer?
Leading the charge against tipping is Saru Jayaraman, co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a labor union front group known for its raucous protests of restaurants and aggressive lobbying for the labor agenda.
While tips are one of the very features that make restaurant jobs attractive to workers, Ms. Jayaraman has no time for anything that suggests pay for performance — a big union no-no. As she recently told the University of California, Berkeley’s alumni magazine: “Ultimately, this system of tipping needs to go.”
She repeated that position recently in Seattle, where the Seattle Times reported Ms. Jayaraman “described tips as institutionalized sexism” and added the “best option, she suggests, is to eliminate tips.”
The startled Seattle Times writer noted Ms. Jayaraman was using “rhetoric making her sound like socialist Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s twin sister.” When even Seattle liberals are shocked by labor movement radicalism, we should take note.
Fear not, because City Councilmember Kshama Sawant is on the case, too:
He was right, though: The other person waging war against tips is Ms. Sawant, a leader in the Seattle campaign to raise the minimum wage, who complains: “We don’t want any worker to be beholden to the mood of the customer on any given day.” As businesses are hit with government-mandated wage hikes, one way to keep customers despite the inevitable menu price sticker shock will be to reduce or eliminate tipping.
That would please Ms. Jayaraman, who recently told a Ford Foundation panel: “No portion of anybody’s income should be tips because tips are not wages.” (The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United has received more than $2 million from the Ford Foundation to advance the labor agenda.)
So, to sum up, Big Labor and its socialist allies don’t like tipping because:
1. It links pay to performance. More skilled, industrious, and appealing wait staff earn more money. That’s anathema to the degenerate philosophy of both the modern labor movement and the hard Left.
2. It establishes the primacy of the customer over the worker. Workers learn that pleasing customers brings rewards. For God’s sake, tipping is almost pure capitalism. It’s a wonder liberals don’t faint dead away when they see diners leaving a few bucks on the table for their waitress.
3. It insulates service industry workers from government control over wages, and may present business owners with a way to get around economy-crushing socialist labor laws. Yes, tips must be reported as taxable income, but they don’t get rinsed through the payroll deduction system in quite the same way as salaried income, making waiters and waitresses distressingly aware of exactly how much they’re paying in taxes. Perhaps more crucially, as Paranzino points out, unions can’t enlist government to automatically siphon union dues out of gratuity income.
4. Tipping can make people at the lower end of the job ladder feel happy with their work, positive about their future, and empowered to create their own success. It helps people climb into the middle class. Service people making good money in tips don’t feel like exploited drones who need left-wing politicians to rescue them from the ravages of economic liberty. We can’t have that.
5. And, just to throw it in there because the union operative brought it up, there’s the “sexism” of attractive female wait staff bringing in more tip money. That might sound silly, but if this anti-tipping crusade gains national traction, I’ll bet you hear it more often.
The service industry in Seattle is fighting back, with a group called Tips Are Wages. A fascinating lesson in economics, the true cost of hyper-regulation, and the hidden agendas of so many who claim to speak for the Little Guy (and Gal) await anyone who gets involved in this battle.