by Doctor Science
I'm almost done with the massive project of helping my mother put together a book of family history -- or at least the part of our history that's taken place in America. Publishing is *hard*, yo, with all the fiddly steps -- never let it be said that I don't respect people who do the actual work of editing, proofreading, fact-checking, and making sure the pictures come out right. Between that and actual what they call "work" I haven't had time for writing more than a sentence or so.
I have kept reading, of course, and one of the things I've read was Mark Bittman's column about how food service workers are paid: wretchedly. Most do not make significantly over the poverty line: the "tipped minimum wage" is $2.13/hour, which the employers are supposed to bring up to the general minimum wage when tips fall short -- but they mostly don't. Bittman points out:
the "tipped minimum wage" — that $2.13 — once increased in proportion to the regular minimum wage. But in 1996, the year [Herman] Cain took over as head of the National Restaurant Association (NRA), he struck a deal with President Bill Clinton and his fellow Democrats. In exchange for an increase in the regular minimum wage, the tipped minimum wage was de-coupled. The result: despite regular increases in the regular minimum wage, the tipped minimum wage hasn’t changed since 1991.On top of that, very few food-service workers have health insurance or sick days, which means they have to come to work when they're ill -- the worst possible situation for public health.
Sprog the Elder and I were discussing this, and wondering why no-one has started a restaurant chain called "No Tipping Please", at which it is the proclaimed policy that the employers will pay the staff directly, and make sure they get sick days and take them, too. Yes, prices would have to be higher -- but if they're only about 15-20% higher than comparable tips-plz places, it's a win for the customers financially, and 25-30% might be worth not having the hassle of deciding how much to tip. "A Restaurant for Food, not Math" is just one of the many ad slogans that spring to mind.
Why hasn't anyone done this? What do you think the reactions of customers and employees would be? Is there really a good reason for Americans to habitually underpay people who bring food -- or is it, like underpaying farm workers, a custom that reflects more about social status than about how valuable the work is, in either moral or free-market terms?