Seattle’s quest for the title of the first major U.S. city with a $15 minimum wage has hit a road bump: resistance from waiters and bartenders themselves.
Worried about a drop in income from tips, many are contacting local politicians to say they support the status quo. In Washington state, that means $9.32 an hour—plus tips. For Seattle bartenders like Bridget Maloney, this can add up to $45 an hour on busy weekends. But she fears that customers may be less generous with their tips if the wage increase supported by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray passes.
As Maloney reports, “People are talking about moving to a European system of tipping,” which would equate to gratuities that are less customary and likely not as generous. She has emerged a spokesperson for a group called itself “Tips Are Wages,” and has made appearances on KIRO Radio, in Seattle Times op-eds, and other local media where she claims that there needs to be an exemption for tipped workers keeping their wages at a lower minimum. “I have built a life around the current model of tipping,” she says.
Last week, Mayor Ed Murray missed the very deadline he set himself to establish a minimum-wage proposal last week, explaining that his advisers from the business and labor sectors are “stuck” over key concerns. Murray, a Democrat, was partly elected last November on account of his platform to raise the minimum to $15.
Restaurant owners are loudly warning that prices could be increased by as much as 25%, or that servers will be required to share a greater part of their tips with cooks, dishwashers, and back-of-the-house staff. The average bill at a high-end restaurant like Staple & Fancy (along with nearly a dozen more restaurants owned by Ethan Stowell, named a “Best New Chef All Star” by Food & Wine magazine), is calculated to increase from $94 to $117, according to a presentation to the Seattle city council.
Pagliacci Pizza warns that it might remove the tip line from receipts altogether.
Kshama Sawant, a socialist city council member also elected for her $15 promises, calls these reports “fear mongering” and reminds reporters that those clinging to the tip debate are missing the point. “We don’t want any worker to be beholden to the mood of the customer on any given day,” she says.
Official studies by the city of Seattle indicate a much more limited effect on restaurant prices: approximately 0.7 % for every 10% increase in the minimum wage. The reports also predict that a $15 minimum would increase pay for about 100,000 people—or nearly 1 in 4 of the city’s workers.
Bartender Maloney insists that she’s one minimum-wage worker who doesn’t want or need the help from the Mayor. After a winter of double-shifts and long nights at work, she’s now enjoying a vacation, and broadcast her opposition via e-mail—from Barcelona.
The employment attorneys at Emery Reddy represent workers facing any unlawful employment practices, from discrimination and wrongful termination to unpaid wages. Our Workers Compensation attorneys and L&I lawyers also represent employees with workplace injuries. Contact our office today for expert help with your case.