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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

The customer is always . . .oh, never mind

Washington already has the highest minimum wage in the nation at $9.32 an hour, and now Seattle seems poised to set one of $15 an hour. Instead of going through all the usual pro and con arguments over a minimu wage, let's just take note of a very interesting sentiment from one of the supporters:

Seattle’s push to become the first big U.S. city with a $15-an-hour minimum wage has hit a snag: opposition from waiters and bartenders.

Fearing a dip in their tip income, some are telling local politicians they’re just fine with the status quo. In Washington state, that means $9.32 an hour—plus tips that, for Seattle bartender Bridget Maloney, can add another $45 an hour on weekends. She’s hearing that customers may be stingier if the wage measure pushed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray passes.

“People are talking about moving to a European system of tipping,” says Maloney, 28, meaning less automatic and not as generous. She has become a spokeswoman for a group called Tips Are Wages, appearing in the Seattle Times, KIRO Radio, and other local media to argue for a carve-out that keeps tipped workers at a lower minimum. “I have built a life around the current model of tipping,” she says.

[. . .]

Restaurants have warned they might boost menu prices as much as 25 percent or force servers to share more of their tips with cooks, dishwashers, and other back-of-the-house staff. The average check at Staple & Fancy and eight other restaurants owned by Ethan Stowell, named a “Best New Chef All Star” by Food & Wine magazine, might go from $94 to $117, according to a presentation to the Seattle city council. Pagliacci Pizza, known for such specialties as the salmon primo, says it might remove the tip line from receipts.

Kshama Sawant, a socialist elected to the council on her own $15 pledge, calls those suggestions “fear mongering” and says people who cling to tips miss the point. “We don’t want any worker to be beholden to the mood of the customer on any given day,” she says.

Get that? Employees of a service industry should not be beholden to the customers. And just who would they be beholden to, hmmmn? That's the most astonishingly honest statement about the true intent of such laws I've ever seen.