New York State (New York City in particular) can be a really expensive place to live. That’s why it’s particularly tough for many people to make ends meet if they’re earning minimum wage… or even less. That generally only applies to tipped employees like restaurant wait staff and bartenders. But never fear, ladies and gentlemen. There are powerful politicians and famous Hollywood stars out there fighting on your behalf. One of them from the latter category is actress and comedian Amy Schumer. She has connections to powerful politicians (like her Uncle Chuck) and the media alike, and she’s been doing her darndest to get all of those workers a raise to fifteen bucks per hour.
Now, as the New York Times learned this past week, some of those workers have a message for her, but it’s not a thank you note. They’d like her to butt out.
For more than a year, a group of Hollywood actresses waving the banner of the Time’s Up movement have been pressing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to apply New York’s minimum wage to workers who earn tips, arguing that it would make waitresses less vulnerable to sexual harassment. Among the celebrities weighing in are Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Williams, Amy Poehler and Amy Schumer.
Not surprisingly, the restaurant industry is pushing back, saying the proposed change would spell doom for many businesses.
But it has also created an unexpected divide: Waitresses and other servers are resisting the proposal, saying they can make more money from tips and do not need celebrities to help protect them from harassment.
The article has several quotes from actual wait staff they interviewed that are worth a read. One woman who bartends at an Outback Steakhouse told them, “These celebrities have literally no idea. I feel like they need to butt out.” Another said that a no-tipping policy (which generally follows a huge wage hike because prices go up) would be ruinous. He currently averages well above $20 per hour in tips, even though his actual “wage” from his employer is a pittance.
We’ve seen this in place after place where these laws have been enacted. Some restaurants experimented with the practice ahead of any government action and found themselves reversing course for as long as possible. And if you think about it, this is a completely logical expectation. If you are the owner of a reasonably successful bar or restaurant that draws a lot of traffic and good clientele, they’re going to generally be ready to leave some generous tips if the service is excellent and the food and/or drinks are enjoyable. That means you’ll be attracting the best wait staff possible because they’ll want to work in an environment like that.
Conversely, no matter how good your establishment may be, if there’s no tipping and you’re offering minimum wage, you’ll be attracting the sort of people who are willing to show up for a minimum wage job. Some of them may be great employees of course, but there’s no incentive to draw the best of the best. And yet here we have the movers and shakers of Hollywood pressuring the Governor of New York to push through a law that paints the wage situation with too broad of a brush. There are, no doubt, many people working at jobs in the Big Apple that don’t earn tips and they would no doubt welcome a nice raise. But when the servers themselves are telling you to butt out, you might want to slow your roll before you “fix” this situation.
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