As a restaurant server, I always say my most helpful piece of advice is to never look at what customers are advising you until your shift is completely over. When I started serving I fell victim to the excitement of how much each guest tipped me the second they left, until I realized that a bad tip was ruining my mood and affected my attitude with the next guests, making it difficult for them to tip. too. Now I know I have to check my tips once I leave the restaurant and I’d be pretty upset on my way home if the money I was earning wasn’t enough for me – which often happens. Incredibly awful days I leave a dinner service with less than $100 after spending six hours there, which on average is approaching the DC Minimum Wage: $16.10 per hour.
In June, Mayor Muriel Bowser announcement than DC’s minimum wage for tipped workers, including mine at the restaurant Northern Italy, increased from $5.05 to $5.35 an hour, effective July 1, 2022. Meanwhile, the rest of DC workers who don’t live off a pile of tips earn $16.10 per hour at a regular rate. While this increase is a good step in theory, DC should abolish tip wages altogether, because the unpredictability of relying on tips disrupts a sustainable lifestyle. Paying tipped workers a living wage, which is close to $23.00 per hourwould provide a steady income for workers, improve restaurant work ethics among servers, and free workers’ wages from the hands of customers who decide how much to add to their already expensive dinner bills.
Even though the tipped wage is supposed to equate to the state minimum wage in the end, the inconsistency and unpredictability are not sustainable. Instead, politicians, DC residents and service sector workers should support Move 82, a November ballot item that would increase tipping wages over the next five years until they match DC’s standard minimum wage of $16.10. Paying minimum wage to tipped workers is necessary for them to have a reliable income, as everyone deserves.
Voter support easily exists as 55% of DC voters adopted Initiative 77, a 2018 initiative identical to Initiative 82. Unfortunately, the DC Council repealed Initiative 77 because they feared it would increase establishment costs, which in turn would lead to fewer jobs, higher prices for customers, and restaurant closures. But minimum wage is worth fighting for for those working in these jobs to survive. As a restaurant server myself, I can speak from experience.
Whether it’s the 60-year-old waiter who needs tips to pay for his groceries, the 33-year-old bartender who uses the money he earns to support his family and feed his children or waiters in our 20s who are paying off their student loans, we all deserve a steady income we can count on and know what we’ll be earning when we get to work. It’s not fair that I know waiters who don’t feed their kids one night just because people didn’t feel like tipping once. Sometimes my colleagues use the money they earn during a shift for the basic necessities of the day, like commuting or paying rent. We all come from different places and have different needs, but none of that means we have to rely on customers to pay our way. The restaurant that hired us and makes money from our work should be the one that compensates us.
The restaurant industry fears that customers will be more stingy with their tips if tipped workers earn minimum wage, but they already are because studies show that only 73% of people will always tip when going out. Knowing that I am not being compensated for 100% of the work I contribute to my restaurant is very unsatisfying and unfair. It’s like a slap in the face when I do my best, running around the restaurant until my feet blister and giving the biggest smile on my toughest days, to make sure all my customers enjoy really their service and they just don’t tip. Without tip serving a table is useless because I won’t earn any money on the job. Tipped workers shouldn’t have to completely waste their time at badly tipping tables and instead be compensated through minimum wage for 100% of their work.
Adopting Initiative 82 would improve the work ethic of employees, as workers would be better motivated to do work that does not involve serving tables. Tipping workers also polish silverware, fold napkins and replenish dishes to help with general restaurant operations. But tipped pay means that these tasks are not paid, which drains our morale when we have to perform these side activities without other customers assisting us. If restaurants paid minimum wage to their tipped workers, we’d be more willing to do that extra work when we’re not serving tables. Establishments would greatly benefit from paying minimum wage to their workers, as the employees would be happier doing work that improves the restaurant as a whole.
As November’s general election approaches, voters should vote ‘yes’ to Initiative 82 and ensure that tipped workers receive real minimum wages. Employees in the service industry work hard enough to deserve compensation and leaving their wages to customers who may or may not tip is simply not good enough for workers. Restaurants will also benefit from employees who are more willing to devote their time and effort to their establishments. Ultimately, tipped salaried workers need a reliable income and Initiative 82 would provide them with that.
Riley Goodfellow, a sophomore in political science, is the opinion editor.