Little Red Fox explains its tipping policy:
At Little Red Fox, we don’t have a waitstaff and we pay all of our employees full wages, so we don’t have a horse in this race. However, we do want to take this opportunity to share one of our core values: treating everyone on our staff equally. One of the ways that translates into daily life at LRF is how we pool and share tips throughout every department in the store.
They go on to explain their expectations of customers:
Tipping is never required. We pay our staff fair and competitive wages. But we do want to take this opportunity to thank all of our loyal patrons for their dedicated support since day one and to share with complete transparency where tips go.
Little Red Fox provides counter service. As it mentions, tipping in this case is encouraged but not required to bring its workers up to at least the standard minimum wage because they are already there.
But for restaurant servers, bartenders and other tipped non-government workers, the current minimum hourly wage is $3.33. The current standard minimum wage in the District is $12.50.
Here is Initiative 77 as seen on the ballot:
If enacted, this initiative will
- Gradually increase the minimum wage in DC to $15/hr by 2020
- Gradually increase the minimum wage for tipped employees so that they receive the same minimum wage directly from their employer as other employees by 2026
- Beginning 2021, require that minimum wage increase yearly in proportion to increase in the Consumer Price Index
- Minimum wage increases under this referendum will not apply to DC government employees or employees of DC government contractors.
Some local news organizations, including the Washington City Paper and WAMU, have worked hard to cover this issue and bring some clarity to the discussion.
WAMU has a comprehensive look at benefits, costs, shortcomings, and what happens if the referendum does and does not get voters’ approval on June 19th.
As the City Paper notes, there is some fear in the restaurant industry. Some owners are warning the referendum’s passage will mean an end to their business. Some wait staff say they’re doing quite well in the current system. Meanwhile, supporters of Initiative 77 see inequities in tipping, citing evidence that white servers do better than people of color, male servers earn more than women. And women, they say, are less likely to complain of sexual harassment from customers, lest it jeopardize their earnings.
And WAMU reports:
When tipped workers don’t earn at least $12.50 an hour after tips – calculated based on a weekly average – employers are legally obligated to make up the rest.
However, reporting and tracking tips is incredibly complex and leaves room for abuse on either side. The employer can underpay. The employee can underreport.
Under the new legislation, the employer would eventually have to pay at least the standard minimum wage to all workers, regardless of tips earned. This is much more transparent system.
Just to be clear: This referendum does not do away with tipping. Should Initiative 77 pass, restaurateurs’ options would include:
- Allowing tipping to continue
- No tipping and introduce a mandatory service charge
- No tipping with increase in pricing that takes into consideration service
- Introducing mandatory pooling of tips
According to research on customer satisfaction at restaurants that use the first three options:
- Restaurants receive lower online customer ratings when they eliminate tipping,
- Online customer ratings decline more when tipping is replaced with service-charges than when it is replaced with service-inclusive-pricing, and
- Less expensive restaurants experience greater declines in online customer ratings when replacing tipping with either alternative than do more expensive restaurants.
These findings provide a strong argument for the retention of tipping, especially among lower- and mid-tier restaurants.
Finally, when voting in the June 19th primary election, your ballot could be full of choices (Democrat) or limited to this initiative (independent). The District has same-day voter registration, so there’s no reason not to exercise your rights. Your vote counts.