Seattle’s New Minimum Wage Highlights the Income Disparity Among Restaurant Staff

Comments

1
There's a new mimimum wage in Seattle.

$70,000

The founder and chief executive of Seattle-based credit card processing company Gravity Payments has decided give out a massive raise that will bring the minimum salary for his 120 employees to $70,000 per year.


http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2015…
2
The framing of this story is pretty hacky. Insofar as these people have a complaint, it's not with the minimum wage, it's with their employer's policy regarding tips. In my one and only service job, a portion of the tips has shared with the back of the back of the house as a matter of policy. It never occurred to me to gripe about this because I didn't know anything else, and also because it never would have occurred to me that I deserved all of the tips, despite the important contributions others made to the tipping customer's dining experience.

The changes to minimum wage law means there's more money to go around. To blame equity problems in on the law is just dumb; their complaint is with unfair compensation policies of the people running their business.
3
This is how they defeated us - they turned us against each other. They managed to make the battle cooks vs. waiters over a few bucks one way or the other, instead of a battle of up vs down. They managed to make people without any kind of retirement benefits hate public employees for retiring without fearing poverty instead of hating the fuckers who set up a system designed to keep huge swaths of this country poor. I just want to live in a fucking civilization.
4
"Deserving it should be more than just showing up." This vividly demonstrates the playground-style pecking order mentality that arises in back-of-house restaurant staff because of inadequate wages.

She also fails to understand that 'minimum wage' means exactly what those words say. If you deserve more, you should (and allegedly will) get paid more. (Remember that fwee mahket/invisible hand stuff that wingnuts pout on and on about?)

Workers like her who regularly get the SHAFT by their employers should better educate themselves about their labor instead of perpetuating these platitudes that allow their employers to pay poverty wages.
5
I mean, look at the Ivar's story. They changed their compensation structure, built tips into the cost and split it between front and back of house. That's one way to do it, but there are plenty of others. There will always be shitty bosses and owners who employ unfair or unjust compensation structures and deflect blame for their effects; to go along with blaming the minimum wage for that is really, really shitty. The more I think about this story, the more it pisses me off. I'm not one of the people who was mad that The Stranger wasn't all #15now cheerleading all the time when the minimum wage legislation was being negotiated; taking other perspectives seriously was and is a useful and important journalistic exercise. But this is just credulously accepting an entirely transparent and extremely hackish exercise in blame-shifting. It's gross.
6
It used to be that so many minimum wage jobs were very low level and menial; these jobs were never intended to be careers. They provided work for students who did not have the time for full-time work or teenagers saving for education or just plain spending money. A lot of the work is in the fast food industry. There really is are no careers in fast food unless you choose a management path but then you had better be prepared to dedicate your life and work your ass off. As lower level wages get higher more and more people will be staying in these jobs when they never actually intended to. Then there will be fewer jobs for the newcomers into the work force; students will have a tougher time finding short term work. Be careful what you wish for.
7
“I would never begrudge anyone making a living wage,” he said. “But when I first heard about the law, honestly I did think, ‘Man, I just spent all this time climbing through the ranks to get to $15 an hour, and now some random person is going to come in and make the same wage at a far less stressful, demanding job.’”

This isn't just in the restaurant industry.

I have asked about this a few times in discussions here on Slog about the $15 minimum wage and basically have been told that I am a terrible person and want people to starve. Just because I feel that people who have worked their way up to pay anywhere around what the new minimum would be deserve to be compensated similarly.
I think companies really do need to take a look at their compensation, or will quickly lose their best employees.... And those new hires, starting at the new minimum, will certainly expect raises in a timely manner, once they prove themselves and take on more responsibilities.
8
I'm not really sure If I understand this post. If a business is too small to fall under the new wage increase now, why would the servers be getting a boost to $15 while the back of house has to wait until the phase in period progresses? If the business is large enough that the $15 kicked in this month and the servers got that but not back of house...the complaint is still with the owner who is a shit but also now breaking the law.

Did I miss something about restaruant servers specificallybeing guaranteed the increase now regardless of business size?
9
@6
As lower level wages get higher more and more people will be staying in these jobs when they never actually intended to. Then there will be fewer jobs for the newcomers into the work force; students will have a tougher time finding short term work

You have cause and effect reverse. The jobs that are being created are these service jobs, hence why the average age of a fast food worker is 29. as to your observation that these jobs were not "intended" to be careers, nor can be because of lack of internal mobility, I think that is an indictment of our economic system. That Capitalism is so illogical and does not create jobs for the people that want to work points to the failure of a system that is not designed nor can operate in any sort of rational method.
Who tells the free hand of the market that these jobs are not suppose to be careers? Why isn't this system recognizing that these jobs are better suited for students and new workers than experienced adults?
10
@8
the $15 is in 3-7 years time, but the phase in started at the beginning of April.
http://www.seattle.gov/civilrights/labor…

11
I work in the restaurant industry. My restaurant collects all tips and then splits everything evenly between every staff person clocked in that day, regardless of what position they work. It really helps form a camaraderie between front and back of house workers, and we all really love that teamwork atmosphere. In fact I believe that positive environment is palpable to customers, which usually leads to better tips overall.
12
@10

Is this exclusively talking about places where BOH people were already making higher than minimum while servers were minimum + tips? I think I get it now.
13
@2 is absolutely right. I have a friend who serves at a restaurant in Belltown. Because the BOH already makes $15/hr, they weren't going to see a pay raise. So, the restaurant restructured the amount that servers tip out BOH so that BOH will end up making more money now, and the servers' additional money is being siphoned directly to BOH, leaving the servers making pretty much what they made to begin with. This is the opposite of what is happening in the original post. It is ALL ABOUT how individual businesses implement the law. Not the law itself.
14
@6:

Here's what I posted on this very subject about a month ago:

Minimum Wage = Training Wage hasn't been a valid paradigm for literally decades. According to the latest report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2013 nearly half of all workers earning the Federal Minimum Wage (or less) were aged 25 or older, and more than 28% were 35 or older. 72% were high school graduates, and 8% had at least a Bachelor's Degree. The simple reality is that, in our modern Capitalist Society, Minimum Wage is the norm for millions of adult workers, a significant portion of whom have both education and experience, but are unable to find jobs to match their skills.
15
@11, which restaurant in Seattle does that ?
I think I want to eat and perhaps work there.
16
@6 There will always be people who want to work harder for more money, and people who don't really care that much, regardless of what the minimum wage is. Increasing the minimum wage doesn't change the game, it just moves the goalposts.
17
@6) "used to be that so many minimum wage jobs were very low level and menial; these jobs were never intended to be careers" That old canard is a complete myth.
Minimum wage began as a "fair days wage for a fair days work" for EVERYBODY- a LIVING WAGE. That minimum wage (aka living wage) has not kept up with the economy has merely caused you to make that fallacious post hoc ergo propter hoc conclusion.
18
@11) If that system isn't ENTIRELY VOLUNTARY, it is ENTIRELY ILLEGAL, to boot.
19
Most restaurants I worked at tips were always split between front and back of the house. I don't understand why every kitchen doesn't do this. Seems the fairest/simplest solution.
20
@19) Tips are the property of the tipped employee. Sharing or pooling is, legally, only on a voluntary basis. You have to have 100% pooling buy-in from tipped staff for it to work. Law also stipulates that such pooling can only be a "sharing arrangement among employees who customarily and regularly receive tips." To be clear: it is illegal to siphon money from tipped employees to pay wages of non-tipped employees.
21
Oh yes, I mis-spoke. So, for the restaurant in Belltown that I won't name so that I don't accidentally doxx my friend, the FOH current pay BOH, who already make $15/hr, 1% of their sales (not tips). Because of the new law, the restaurant is making FOH give BOH 2% of their individual sales, which essentially just takes the extra money they would be making due to the new law and gives it to BOH, according to the math my friend did.
22
front-of-house workers, who do make minimum wage but earn far more than back-of-house workers overall because of tips


For my entire working life, from the mid-90's to the present, proper etiquette in the restaurant industry has been for FOH workers (servers) to "Tip out" the BOH workers (line cooks, etc) about half their nightly take. I always did it and my wife always did it, just like our mothers before us.

This is established behavior at sit-down restaurants nationwide, and can be confirmed by servers at restaurants ranging from Denny's to Canlis.

This whole greedy "Servers get to keep all their tips to themselves" thing is very much a new phenomenon. There's always been that one asshole, at every restaurant, who refuses to tip-out or shorts the BOH, sure, but it was never more than one or two assholes. Now I'm hearing stories of entire restaurants filled with assholes, methodically stiffing the line-cooks.

It's bullshit.

All these complaints of "oh noes, my tips are being stolen and given to BOH" remind me of the pot dealers who complained when weed got legal.
23
@20: it may be illegal, but in my experience it's common and creates a better workplace. As far as common goes all I can say is that I've never worked in a restaurant where if tips weren't pooled the front of house staff didn't tip out back of house staff at the end of the shift. Part of that is self-interest: the FOH tips are dependent on BOH work. If they do their job really well, I get better tips. If I'm an asshole they can ignore my table when it comes to water and clearing plates or flat out screw up my orders.
24
This story was a great demonstration of how the debate over "living wages" goes far beyond some nominal minimum wage.

Current employees are somewhat upset that new employees don't have to 'work their way up' to a wage level that they themselves had to struggle to reach. That's a completely human emotion, and now that the minimum wage bumps are part of the law, they can turn that energy into demanding higher wages for their more experienced work than newcomers, rather than tearing down newbies looking to start at a higher wage.

Back house employees who aren't seeing the bump in minimum wage but do see their front-house employees get a bump while still bringing in tips (for those companies not considered small businesses, which can apply a tip credit) can more forcefully question the tip-sharing policies at their workplace, or whether the tip model is actually a good one; or they can start seeking higher wages to compensate for the increase in disparity.

And in Saephanh's story, we see the imperfection with minimum wages meant to provide a "living wage", as most 16 year olds are dependents and arguably don't need the same wage level (need in a social justice sense of the word) as their 25 year old independent coworkers not living off their parent's funds. While I don't have a problem with the minimum wage applying even to minors, if you want to help bring a boost to the income of working-poor adults, there are more efficient mechanisms like negative taxes (more or less like the EITC), which can be better targeted based on need.
25
@22 & 23) Saying "such a practice exists and has existed in the past" neither makes it LEGAL nor, most importantly, GOOD WAGE POLICY for staff. It's great policy only if you want to steal wages to bump up your bottom line. It also foments the type of backbiting and 'retaliation' between low-wage employees that is so 'intelligently' articulated by post @22 (when s/he isn't moaning about his/her pot dealer). Employers are fine with such a situation because it distracts staff from the real issues (wage theft) and doesn't cost them a DIME. But let's keep on defending those poor owners from this kind of d'scrimnatin'!
26
@22 - Yeah, there's always animosity between FOH and BOH (show me ONE that doesn't...), so when I was a server in the Reagan years (!) I tipped out the cooks and other non-tipped employees, and it came back to me in spades. I was an awesome server and made long, long green because I always got the best sections and customers (tipped extra to the maitre d'hôtel), I always got the favors from the BOH (always tipped them, beered them, etc), always got the move-my-orders-up from the bartender (guess why). It was only customary to tip your busboy back then, I was the only one that tipped the cooks. It was also before tips "had" to be declared.

And I disagree with the line cook that FOH and BOH are equal positions. A BOH employee can be taught how to do any prep or technique that allows for a product to be made. A FOH employee cannot be taught how to have a good personality, and that's what it takes to rake in tips.
27
Customary tip needs to shift to 10% across the country, free and clear of taxes.
28
Question, if a city raises its minimum wage, does this decrease its total take of state and federal assistance to induviduals? Is this a good economic strategy? Is it a zero sum game for low paid workers, more money from the employer but less from the government.
29
@7
In the eyes of the extremists in Seattle, you are a "horrible person." I don't believe the government should set the price on anything, BUT, I would say that raising the minimum wage to $12/hour for all major urban areas in the state, with tips and commissions bringing it down no further than $11/hour wouldn't be that bad...but it's not the $15/hour flat that the dear Leader Sawant wants, so I'm a neo-nazi.
Welcome to Seattle.
30
If one cannot make themselves worth more through hard work and/or education, than one does not deserve a living wage. I am not as hardworking as a CEO, so I make less. I don't whine and moan about it, I just make less. But I am not one of those people working as a cashier at McDonald's at the age of thirty. Those people do not deserve $15/hour, and I am not going to apologize for saying that. If you're that big a loser, you should be in poverty. I do not want to live in a city that does not believe in personal responsibility. If they want more money, they should do what I did: earn a raise or get a better job.
Next up: minimum vagina. Many heterosexual men are having a hard time getting sex. The government HAS TO step in to ensure minimum vagina for all citizens, and if you say "they should just find girlfriends," then you are a far-right hack!
31
@14
A little prayer you will agree with:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1DgYMYV…
32
@31) You'll be sucking the government tit as soon as your employer fires you for being the pathetic assface that you are.
33
@30: The economy for work is massively distorted because not participating in the market is not an option for the vast majority of people. This creates a vast downward pressure on wages, and not to the benefit of society. This is the problem which renders "free market" capitalism unstable, the fact that the most important market, the labour market, is fundamentally not free, since participation is mandatory.
If you want to see a real free market economy, destroy all entitlement programs, and create one: Citizenship Income. Every citizen is given $15k/year by the government (though they can opt out of the monthly payments as a way of reducing their owed taxes), and all earned income is taxed at a flat rate (20%?) with no exemptions. Unearned income (capital gains) should be taxed higher probably, but if it was taxed the same, it wouldn't be as big a deal.
There, now the option exists for people to not take really shitty jobs to survive, so we will see working conditions change. In addition, people who want to not work (or to be a full time parent) would be able to do so, decreasing the pool of available workers. Then, abolish the minimum wage. Now the fact that my sister with Down Syndrome isn't really generating much more than a couple dollars an hour worth of value for her employer isn't that big a deal, because she's got enough money to survive on regardless, and if teenagers want to accept a training wage, good for them.
34
@22, well, I was a BOH cook in one of the shitty $2.something an hour base rate for tipped workers during the late 90s. No, it's not universal or nationwide. FOH tipped out bussers and bartenders and very rarely did I ever hear of them tipping a cook except for going above and beyond.

When I was doing FOH work for a few months, I did as explained above.
35
So all of this was pointed out by commenters during the 15now push last year...
36
Just so everyone knows, there's nothing stopping you, as a customer, from asking your server how much they tip out BoH before calculating your tip.

I'm visibly more generous at places where I know the line shares a close-to even cut.
37
I worked in a fine dining establishment in Seattle with probably the best known chef there, and a portion of our tips was split between the host, bussers, bartenders and kitchen. And I find it bothersome that the commenter above made it seem like the kitchen begrudges the servers because they felt like they were seeing nothing from a $30. tip. While their job is incredibly difficult, not every meal is satisfactory, and the server has to do the dance of public relations to make it right. While the kitchen prepares the food, it's the server that brings it and does every element of care needed to ensure a great experience. It's not FOH vs BOH, or it shouldn't be. It's a team effort, and I do believe the BOH does deserve more, but don't blame the servers for the disparity in wages.
38
I fully agree with @37. I have worked in the BOH before both as a dishwasher and night janitor. Both positions are about the lowest on a restaurant staff totem pole. The thing is that nobody on the staff looks down their nose at anybody. The staff at a restaurant must work as a team; every job is critical and all of the staff understands this. A kitchen, especially a busy one, would literally collapse if this were not so.
39
@30: "I am not as hardworking as a CEO, so I make less."
^this is how Libertarians actually believe the job market works
40
@39
The average CEO works A LOT MORE than the celebrated cashier at McDonald's, and this is a FACT: http://thinkingforward.tumblr.com/post/5…
But since when have liberals cared about facts? Anyone who thinks the cashier at McDonald's deserves to make as much as the woman or man who worked like hell for their MBA, works 50-60 hour weeks, fought for years and years to rise up the ranks only to hardly has time for lunch and take almost no vacation time is someone who should be sterilized least they pass their stupid genes onto the next generation.
41
@33
First, "society" is code for "fuck the individual, he or she has NO RIGHTS". I have very little concern for any totalitarian concept of "society" unless we are talking about a collection of individuals, which you obviously aren't.
Second, Sweden has no minimum wage...are people their starving in the streets? http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/…
And third, you never answered this point: why stop at money? Why not minimum vagina? Why can't government step in to provide a healthy sex life for every heterosexual male? Are you a part of the evil 1% who get all the Vagina for themselves? Why not redistribute the coochie like we do the cash?
And no, I prefer the cock so this doesn't apply to me.
42
@41: Oh, I'm sorry, did we not answer your ludicrous straw man? OK: Because sex is not a fundamental human need on the same level as shelter, clothing, or food. We do have a series of policies designed to prevent the hording of sexual partners. Have you heard of polygamy? Know how there's a ton of laws against it?
Do you feel better now that you've gotten "vagina" and "coochie" out of your system?

It's cute how you pretend to be an individualist, but you just want to live in a collectivist society with a few individualist laws. Go ahead, tell me more about how Sweden is a beacon for individualism over collectivism.
43
@collectivism_sucks:
"I am not one of those people working as a cashier at McDonald's at the age of thirty. Those people do not deserve $15/hour, and I am not going to apologize for saying that. If you're that big a loser, you should be in poverty. I do not want to live in a city that does not believe in personal responsibility. If they want more money, they should do what I did: earn a raise or get a better job. "

A few questions:
1) What do you believe a "living wage" to be, and which of the following would you say it ought to include? (Rent/mortgage/furniture/appliances? Utilities? Periodic clothing budget?Telephone? Computer/internet? TV? Food? Car/gas/insurance/repairs to get to one's job? Health insurance premiums and copays? Minimum payments on college or consumer debt? Holiday gifts for family or friends? Emergency savings? Enough flex to take advantage of bulk-buying discounts or potential investments? [gasp] Seeing a movie or going out for a beer once a year?)
2) Do you genuinely believe that those people who work minimum wage jobs (like people who could only find work at McDonalds) are doing so because they believe it to be "easier" work than, for instance, an office job?
3) How much do people scrubbing toilets, scalding themselves on deep-fryers, and doing hours upon hours of rush-hour manual labor deserve? (feel free to answer "as a proportion of your answer to #1")
4) Do you believe there are enough jobs out there for everyone (the disabled, the poor, the mentally-challenged, the routinely-discriminated-against) to earn a living wage (#1), and/or do you believe that all laborers, if they worked hard enough at their jobs, would be able to ask for and receive a raise to what you believe to be an acceptable minimum wage?
5) It seems that you are certain (based on your article) that a CEO "works harder" than a McDonalds line cook (for instance), or other manual laborers - a conclusion I have issue with, considering the apples-to-oranges nature of the work, but using whatever method YOU use to calculate the relative "hardness" of work, do you believe that the average CEO works over 300x harder than their average employee?
44
I have worked BOH and FOH, including washing dishes, expo, server, busser and hostess. BOH to me is so much easier, it's positively mentally relaxing not having to personally deal with guests. As a server, it is so much harder. It's just as physical as BOH, at least at my current job and it envolves a song and dance and constantly being aware of 20-30 different people's needs and wants. If BOH is going to be making as much as FOH then I'm going to switch back to the easier work of BOH. I'm not saying it's easy, all restaurant work is F××King exhausting but not having to deal with guests again for equal or close to equal money would be awesome.