Kshama Sawant with her NO Tip Penalty sign.
  • The Stranger
  • Kshama Sawant with her "NO Tip Penalty" sign.
Yesterday, Mayor Ed Murray and city council member Jean Godden announced the city's next steps in addressing a very real gender-based pay gap at the city. The proposed solutions ranged from broad and long-term proposals—creating a Gender Equity Initiative that mirrors the already-existing Race and Social Justice initiative—to concrete and immediate options, like instituting a paid parental leave program for city employees.

At the announcement, a host of people stood behind Murray and Godden at the podium, including members of the task force that issued the recommendations and a handful of city council members. Kshama Sawant was there, wearing one of the red pins they'd handed out that reads "NO Wage Gap" inside a woman symbol.

Later on in her council office, though, she'd printed out a new, slightly amended version of the same pin (see it in the photo at right): "NO Tip Penalty, NO Wage Gap." What's that all about?

I asked her. "I applaud Council Member Jean Godden for showing leadership on an issue so important to women and people of color," she said, diplomatically. But there's another big thing we can do to address the gender pay gap, says Sawant: Raise the minimum wage, and make sure that wage raise doesn't come with a lower wage for tipped workers. Why? "Tipped workers experience twice the rate of poverty" as workers in other sectors, she pointed out, and "women make up the majority of tipped workers," making the tip credit a women's issue.

"Statistics from around the country on the gender wage gap," she said later via e-mail, "and sexual harassment rates in the tipped sector, especially for women of color, reveal that even entertaining the idea of a tip credit is like telling women they don't matter."

You can read more on the heated argument around including tips in employees' wages in this week's paper, where a 15 Now organizer and a restaurant owner face off.