We should end the practice of tipping

Tipping is rooted in discrimination and we should abandon the custom


Anna Owsley, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

Since the enslavement of African Americans, it’s safe to say America has come a long way. We generally look down upon the practice of prejudice and inequality, but shockingly, we still partake in a nationwide custom that was fostered in discrimination: tipping.

According to the ROC United organization, the practice of tipping in America became most common after the emancipation of slaves because it gave racist restaurant owners a socially acceptable way to not pay black employees. It was popularized again after the prohibition laws in 1919. When restaurant owners were struggling financially, they chose to cheap out on salaries using tipping as an excuse.

This practice has only grown since then. According the U.S. Department of Labor, as of 1996, there has been a special minimum wage of just $2.13 for employees in professions where tipping is customary. While the law says that the wage must equal or exceed minimum wage after the inclusion of tips, the DOL found that from 2010 to 2012, 84 percent of restaurants were in violation of labor standards that include this tipping law.

Forcing customers to pay the salary of waiters and waitresses also allows for legal racism. The Cornell SHA provides clear evidence for this. For white servers, tips increased from 16.8 percent of the bill size when service was rated less than perfect to 23.4 percent of bill size when service was given a perfect rating, but for black servers, tips were 16.6 percent of bill size for both service ratings.      

This all just goes to show that tipping has been used to to cheap out on salaries and allows for rampant discrimination in the workplace. In the current climate of our society, there are hundreds of organizations that fight for the rights of the oppressed, yet Americans are literally paying for the broken system of paying tipped workers. It’s time for society to hold employers accountable for paying their workers.  

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