Jump to content

DC Ballot Initiative 77 - Eliminating the Tipped Minimum Wage - Vote Is on June 19, 2018


Recommended Posts

I received voting information from the DC Board of Elections the other day but didn't really pay much attention to it.  I did notice there were a couple of ballot initiatives up for vote.

Then today, the DC restaurant industry launched a PR campaign (I noticed it on Instagram) voicing their opposition to Ballot Initiative 77.

Some pretty big names in the business are on the No list, including Aaron Silverman, Jeremiah Langhorne (The Dabney), the Tail Up Goat folks, Sebastian Zutant/Lauren Winter, Cedric Maupillier, the Trabocchis, to name a few.

In the spirit of Equal Time:

Here is the No argument:  Vote No 77

One Fair Wage, the Yes campaign being lead by Restaurant Opportunities Center United

Stories from:

WAMU.

Washingtonian

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, Tweaked said:

I received voting information from the DC Board of Elections the other day but didn't really pay much attention to it.  I did notice there were a couple of ballot initiatives up for vote.

Then today, the DC restaurant industry launched a PR campaign (I noticed it on Instagram) voicing their opposition to Ballot Initiative 77.

Some pretty big names in the business are on the No list, including Aaron Silverman, Jeremiah Langhorne (The Dabney), the Tail Up Goat folks, Sebastian Zutant/Lauren Winter, Cedric Maupillier, the Trabocchis, to name a few.

In the spirit of Equal Time:

Here is the No argument:  Vote No 77

One Fair Wage, the Yes campaign being lead by Restaurant Opportunities Center United

Stories from:

WAMU.

Washingtonian

Interesting. Waiting with baited breath for Ed Lazere and the DCFPI to weigh in 🙄. Won't be long, I'm sure.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll be issuing an opinion on this, but I need a couple of days to familiarize myself with the specifics of the Initiative.

Keep in mind that I have acquaintances with many restaurateurs, and have also spoken out on behalf of employees for ROC-DC (yes, that's me, years ago):

ROC-DC.jpg

In other words, my position is sympathetic to both management and labor, and is largely malleable at this point, with the caveats that my tendency is to support people who need help the most (in other words, I tend to support the underprivileged), and I have, of course, been very vocal over the years in eliminating the tipping system, because servers are absurdly overpaid relative to line cooks, dishwashers, busers, and AGMs. To date, I have witnessed attempts at eliminating tipping, and it has generally only worked at the highest-end restaurants (and places like The Swiss Bakery), so in practical terms, I'm going into this with the attitude that the elimination of the tipped minimum wage system must be done by everybody, or it will fail, because if it's done piecemeal, then restaurants won't be on even footing with one-another. With that in mind, the big question for me is: What are the specifics of this Ballot Initiative, and what are the arguments of the "Vote No" letter - I'm probably going to parse the letter online, sentence-by-sentence, as I read it, giving my thoughts as I go. Stay tuned ...

---

In the meantime, do you know whose voices aren't being heard? Those of line cooks, dishwashers, busers, and AGMs. If anyone in this position wishes to write me in order to voice an opinion here, but fears recrimination from their employer, I GIVE YOU MY ABSOLUTE WORD OF HONOR THAT YOU WILL REMAIN ANONYMOUS, NOBODY WILL EVER KNOW WHO YOU ARE, AND THAT YOUR WORDS WILL BE HEARD HERE. I apologize for the sloppy Google Translate, but: 

DÉ A TODOS MI PALABRA ABSOLUTA DE HONOR QUE TODOS QUEDARÁN ANÓNIMOS, NADIE SABRÁ QUIÉNES SON, Y QUE SUS PALABRAS SE IMPRIMIRÁN AQUÍ.

Email me at donrockwell@dcdining.com in strict confidence with your name, occupation, place of employment and thoughts about this issue. In a few weeks, I will display an anonymous list of all the comments I receive.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Ericandblueboy said:

How does each position affect diners?  Is there a scenario where the cost of dining goes down?  I'm not seeing it.  At best, cost of dining stays the same?

Idk... if it's redistribution, at best it stays the same? But maybe not, right, b/c so much of current FOH is cash/tax free. If they pump up people's base, then the restaurant is on the hook for the taxes (maybe double tax? employees pay payroll and business has to pay?)

I think more likely prices go up. Going to be very hard for a FOH person who makes $25-30 an hour understand why they are making $15 an hour now, even if it is helping their hombres in the the BOH. People love redistribution when it's not their money being redistributed.

Worst case, FOH revolt and they can't find staffing and wages have to go up considerably, and thin margins become thinner, a restaurants shut down... that's my prediction. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Simul Parikh said:

Idk... if it's redistribution, at best it stays the same? But maybe not, right, b/c so much of current FOH is cash/tax free. If they pump up people's base, then the restaurant is on the hook for the taxes (maybe double tax? employees pay payroll and business has to pay?)

I think more likely prices go up. Going to be very hard for a FOH person who makes $25-30 an hour understand why they are making $15 an hour now, even if it is helping their hombres in the the BOH. People love redistribution when it's not their money being redistributed.

Worst case, FOH revolt and they can't find staffing and wages have to go up considerably, and thin margins become thinner, a restaurants shut down... that's my prediction. 

In that I don't work as a server or a bartender now I have no idea how much is cash/tax free.   I strongly suspect it is far far less than it used to be (and possibly far less than you imagine)  Everyone pays by card now versus in the past.  Tips get written on the cards.  That info is available for state and national taxing authorities.  In the last few weeks I heard of a place that has been operating for a long long time (2 decades) that caters to young twenties and is very cash oriented.  The city snagged the operators, the operators paid a sizable fine and now all tips are accounted for and added into reporting. 

But again I'm not on the floor.  I don't know for sure.  

This is a thorny issue.  However this is decided it will result in winners and losers.  I do acknowledge that from the No Vote piece...those restaurants on the margin will be hit hard if the laws change.  They are the ones that will at minimum cut hours and at worst case close. 

Too many people in the industry make too little money.  That is obvious. 

If the rules change there will be winners and losers.  As it is now, there are a lot of folks on the too little income losing side of the ledger. 

Get Apple and Google to underwrite everything.  They have money to burn.    In fact here is a great DC oriented solution.   Take the political money out of the pols and lobbyists pockets for a year or two.  That would be enough to boost all the restaurants' peoples salaries beaucoup and then some for a good five years of better income and would keep prices stable. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Please listen to Cizuka Seki, Clementine Thomas and Jill Tyler here.  There's a significant risk this will be devastating to the local restaurant scene--including FOH employees--and especially to the young people who have taken the chance at opening the sorts of personal, idiosyncratic and neighborhood places that most of us love.

Link to post
Share on other sites

In this podcast--which you should listen to for several reasons, most importantly, what they have to say about DC Initiative 77--there's a "rapid fire Qs" segment at the end in which Jill Tyler (Tail up Goat) is asked "What's your idea of the perfect D.C. date night?"  Her immediate response:  "The bar at 2 Amys, no question"--and Cizuka Seki (Seki) and Clementine Thomas (Chez Billy) readily concur.  Wise women:  heed their advice (not only on 2 Amys, but 77, too).

Great listen! The Initiative 77 was clearly more current/pressing, but I would have also have liked to hear a lot more in being a female head of kitchen, which they started on but didn't get to go into detail.

EDIT: As noted below - head of kitchen is the wrong phrase - I meant women opening/managing the restaurants and being in leadership roles. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Simul Parikh said:

Great listen! The Initiative 77 was clearly more current/pressing, but I would have also have liked to hear a lot more in being a female head of kitchen, which they started on but didn't get to go into detail.

None of them is a "head of kitchen" (although Cizuka is, I believe, heavily involved on the "BOH" side)--they were celebrating the increasing role of women in opening, owning and managing restaurants, much of which is threatened by 77.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's really interesting how this is being promoted.

- The ROC's main argument says that this is for the tipped wage workers, but tipped wage workers are overwhelmingly against I77. Sounds kind of paternalistic to tell people what they should be in favor of or against.

- The policy advocates say that they problem is that certain races and certain types of people are disadvantaged by the current system. But, if this was the case, for/against should be proportionate to race.

- If tipped waged workers make significantly more than $15/hour (minimum), and then their wages are raised to $15, a service charge is added, but if people still tip, then aren't those same disadvantaged workers still going to make less money? Doesn't seem to fix the problem.

- If the real, actual goal is to raise the wages of the back of the house, I don't see how this does that unless 1) A service charge is added 2) No tips are allowed 3) These charges are completely pooled and distributed in some sort of pre-determined way (%age per person, or based on hours worked, or seniority? What is fair?)

- Some states of allowed tips to be pooled and distributed to reduce the disparity between FOH and BOH. Maybe this is a better idea?

- Why is this the one service industry where tipping makes up for the fact that the business owners don't have a strong model in place?

This here is complete nonsense - 

"Some question why no tipping works in most of Europe. “What you experience in other countries is order-taking,” Chaisson says. “The U.S. is revered as the best service in the world. I would strongly argue that is a direct result of our tipped system.” Hollinger and others say there are far fewer servers and bartenders working at one time in European restaurants and generally, they’re hawking food and drink instead of experiences.

“I view servers as a professional class of commissioned sales people,” Greenbaum says. She reasons that servers at IHOP shouldn’t make the same amount as upscale restaurant workers. “They don’t take home wine books to study. They don’t know where their products are from.”

Operators fear that this class of professional tipped workers would potentially flee D.C. or exit the industry if they’re staring down job cuts, reduced shifts, and closures on top of what they perceive to be capped earning potential."

- No tipping works just fine in the rest of the world because of living wages, strong welfare states, and the fact that tipping is not traditional. It is laughable to say that the service isn't as good in Europe. Absolutely laughable. I lived in Denmark for a year. I've traveled the world. No tips in India and Thailand, yet incredibly friendly and helpful service. Limited tipping on the continent, and the service is just fine. This is the one bullshit argument that rivals the complete bullshit argument that "America has the best healthcare in the world, so any changes is going to ruin American Medicine". That just isn't true, b/c the premise isn't true - American doesn't have the best healthcare in the world. Similarly, American customer service is not significantly better than service in most of the world. So, this isn't a good argument at all.  

- We've just decided that a hot 22 year old with no training that serves at a mid range restaurant deserves $40-60k a year.

- That podcast revealed something quite interesting - all 3 women said that the current model allows tipped wage workers to have a living wage AND get to pursue other passions - music, art, writing. That is CRAZY. Customers have to subsidize their passions? I've never heard of another non-professional person say that is expected as a part of your job. Nuts. 

I have no dog in the fight. I think it will be interesting how it shakes out and curious to see economic analyses of the 7 states that already have 'one wage'. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Virtually all of the bartenders I've known over the years, including those that have earned high bartending income don't dine in the restaurants that grab attention here.  They can't afford it.  Needless to say the majority of BOH staffers can't afford it either.  Not the majority in either BOH or FOH, the vast vast overwhelming volume of all workers.  When you see Jose Andres at the Capital One Center, he is the exception to the rule.  (more power to him-he can afford seasons tickets because he is also a successful business person and is not in the kitchen when the games are being played).  

Its interesting to read the articles and comments from tipped workers.  I don't live in the District so I'm not voting on the issue.  My liberal heart would normally side with the ROC side.  In this case I have somewhat more knowledge on the issues than most of these big political issues from which I'm directly divorced.  My gut and experience tell me that I should vote against it.  Neither of the votes are going to get BOH of FOH workers to dine at the restaurants that garner the most appeal in this forum or get listed among the best restaurants in DC.  When industry regulars go to Columbia Room for industry hours they are often/usually drinking shots of Old Overholt and Natty Boh.  Those are not the types of cocktails that get rave reviews.  Old Overholt and Natty Boh is a cheap drink. 

If I lived in the District I'd probably vote against it.  Either way at this end of the spectrum there will be winners and losers.  If it passes I suspect some restaurants will drop out and/or cut workers hours.

Seriously instead of having critical votes on this stuff where nobody with a lot of money is going to make it or break it: turn to this group of businesses and have them subsidize low wage workers salaries.  (somewhat facetious/somewhat not)

Link to post
Share on other sites

This thread really ought to be somewhere more prominent -- perhaps even in DC Restaurants.  The stakes are very high for the restaurants this community most cares about.  For those who are interested, this is an event this evening worth attending.

Link to post
Share on other sites

There were pro-77 representatives going door-to-door in our neighborhood on Sunday, and I was willing to hear them out because like many here I don't actually *know* what the good arguments are for this proposal from the service side.  I opened with "We have several friends and acquaintances who are servers are bartenders, and they have all spoken out against this, so we are inclined to vote "No" right now".  She thanked me for my time and walked away.  There wasn't even an attempt to make their case once they knew we were somewhat knowledgeable about this.

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/23/2018 at 10:38 AM, Tweaked said:

José Andrés is No on 77

From ThinkFoodGroup: Our 25-year operating experience, in both polished casual and fine dining restaurants, consistently shows that servers earn appreciably more than back-of-house positions, and well above the minimum wage when you combine the tipped wage from employers and total tips from guests. As it stands, the system is designed to allow servers to earn as much as 100% or more per hour than cooks. 

It is absurd, baffling and somehow hopelessly unsurprising that in the 21st century, in one of the wealthiest regions of the wealthiest country ever that some topside employees rely on the charity of strangers to earn their wages and they still make considerably more (17% more) than those in the engine room.  Customers don't want to charged more, but are happy to tip more.

Hourly mean wage for cooks in DC is $14.93

Hourly mean wage for servers in DC is $17.48.  

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/29/2018 at 1:51 PM, Poivrot Farci said:

It is absurd, baffling and somehow hopelessly unsurprising that in the 21st century, in one of the wealthiest regions of the wealthiest country ever that some topside employees rely on the charity of strangers to earn their wages and they still make considerably more (17% more) than those in the engine room.  Customers don't want to charged more, but are happy to tip more.

Hourly mean wage for cooks in DC is $14.93

Hourly mean wage for servers in DC is $17.48.  

Even at the exact same wage rate, I would *much* rather be a server than a line cook or a dishwasher. Those folks work much harder, and are paid considerably less.

You want to discuss “unskilled labor?” Look at the American server; not the line cook or dishwasher.

And I would *never* be an “AGM” (a euphemism for gopher) unless there was an equity arrangement. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am not really sure I understand the issue from the "pro-77" perspective.  I always thought that although tipped employees have a lower base minimum wage, that if they do not receive enough tips to meet the minimum wage for non-tipped personnel, the restaurant has to make up the difference.  Thus, under the current system tipped employees are already guaranteed minimum wage.  If that is the case then it would support an inference that the "pro-77" faction is up to something other than to ensure tipped employees receive minimum wage.  One bartender I spoke to said she would look for jobs outside of DC if Initiative 77 passes.  In an industry that already appears understaffed, this does not sound like a good thing.

Link to post
Share on other sites
22 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

Even at the exact same wage rate, I would *much* rather be a server than a line cook or a dishwasher. Those folks work much harder, and are paid considerably less.

You want to discuss “unskilled labor?” Look at the American server; not the line cook or dishwasher.

And I would *never* be an “AGM” (a euphemism for gopher)  unless there was an equity arrangement. 

None of this is reason to support 77, right?  Just curious:  I assume that one "solution" to this inequity would be to pool tips and share them equally with the kitchen staff.  I also assume restaurants have tried that -- but that it hasn't worked.  Why not?  Does it make it much harder to retain good waitstaff?

Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, Marty L. said:

None of this is reason to support 77, right?  Just curious:  I assume that one "solution" to this inequity would be to pool tips and share them equally with the kitchen staff.  I also assume restaurants have tried that -- but that it hasn't worked.  Why not?  Does it make it much harder to retain good waitstaff?

My understanding is that if you're not paying minimum wage (without considering tips) to the front of the house, it's illegal to pool their tips with the back of the house.  There are legal moves afoot to change this (actually from the current administration) but that would also allow managers (and employees suspect owners as well) to share in the pool, so it's not supported by many in the business.

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, zgast said:

My understanding is that if you're not paying minimum wage (without considering tips) to the front of the house, it's illegal to pool their tips with the back of the house.  There are legal moves afoot to change this (actually from the current administration) but that would also allow managers (and employees suspect owners as well) to share in the pool, so it's not supported by many in the business.

Oh, right, thanks, that makes sense -- explains why the efforts to do so have been by adding a mandatory, per customer "upcharge" and forbidding tips, a la Danny Meyer (a tactic that has not really worked anywhere in DC, far as I know).

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Poivrot Farci said:

From ThinkFoodGroup: Our 25-year operating experience, in both polished casual and fine dining restaurants, consistently shows that servers earn appreciably more than back-of-house positions, and well above the minimum wage when you combine the tipped wage from employers and total tips from guests. As it stands, the system is designed to allow servers to earn as much as 100% or more per hour than cooks. 

It is absurd, baffling and somehow hopelessly unsurprising that in the 21st century, in one of the wealthiest regions of the wealthiest country ever that some topside employees rely on the charity of strangers to earn their wages and they still make considerably more (17% more) than those in the engine room.  Customers don't want to charged more, but are happy to tip more.

Hourly mean wage for cooks in DC is $14.93

Hourly mean wage for servers in DC is $17.48.  

As an aside I believe there are big holes with regard to the mean wage for a server.   Years ago, our bartending school got calls and worked with the person overseeing the general data and specifics for certain job categories for the BLS.  In the course of the conversations I asked her how they aggregated data for bartenders and servers.  Between tip income, unreported tip income, people working part time, people not counted by employers, there were clear "holes" in the data.  The particular categories/  servers/bartenders/other staff on tips   had a number of areas where data collection fell through.  The BLS knows it.  OTOH:  it is the best data available.  There is no other source that comes close to what they collect.

The other day I spoke with an ex student/ex instructor, long time bartender, varied experiences from strip clubs, to clubs to high volume, to name restaurants.  He is also well versed in today's craft bartending and has created various cocktails....and he is a cocktail geek.  Over the last 6-8 years he has worked in better name restaurants, and has invariably held down the busy shifts on Thursdays, Fridays, Sometimes Saturdays sometimes not  He has been the lead bartender at those last few places.

Boy is he against this ballot initiative, but he is also someone who can maximize earnings off of tips.  Even with that he mentioned today's environment is difficult for him to earn what he used to earn. 

None of which has anything to do with your comments above about the disparity in wages between FOH and BOH.  Additionally for most workers it remains a low wage job, any way you cut it.   So here we are in one of the wealthiest regions in one of the wealthiest nations....and I frankly can't see an easy way to change that dynamic to get those workers higher pay without significantly raising prices....and who knows how that effects the employers.

Or Apple, Google, and Amazon can underwrite those wages. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

It appears to me that restaurants recoil at the idea of raising the price of a $10 item by 20% -anticipating and relying on the customer to leave a $2 (20%) gratuity.  Whereas  customers prefer to be charged $10 and then left the opportunity to decline the gratuity if the server/bartender's service or product is not up to snuff.  Is that correct?

$10 + maybe/hopefully $2 is the preferred outcome.

$12 and no need to tip is out of the question.

I wish the remaining 20% of my airfares were based on a gratuity system.

  • Like 1
  • Haha 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Poivrot Farci said:

It appears to me that restaurants recoil at the idea of raising the price of a $10 item by 20% -anticipating and relying on the customer to leave a $2 (20%) gratuity.  Whereas  customers prefer to be charged $10 and then left the opportunity to decline the gratuity if the server/bartender's service or product is not up to snuff.  Is that correct?

$10 + maybe/hopefully $2 is the preferred outcome.

Somewhat ironically, if an item is priced at $9.95 (as opposed to $10) - which many restaurants do - the customer is MUCH more likely to leave a $1.50 tip instead of $2.

I have no "studies" to prove this, but I *know* I'm right.

Without making any comments about the specifics of Initiative 77 - with which I'm unfamiliar - the world would be a better place without the tipping system.

I have no "studies" to prove this, but I *know* I'm right.

My gut tells me that the implementation of such a concept needs to be an "everybody, or nobody" type of scenario.

Regarding the previous sentence, I don't "know" I'm right, but I think I'm right.

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, DonRocks said:

Somewhat ironically, if an item is priced at $9.95 (as opposed to $10) - which many restaurants do - the customer is MUCH more likely to leave a $1.50 tip instead of $2.

I have no "studies" to prove this, but I *know* I'm right.

Why would people tip 15% if it’s priced at $9.95 but 20% if it’s priced at $10?  Are you suggesting people who order less than $10 are cheap or they just can’t do basic math?

Link to post
Share on other sites
52 minutes ago, Ericandblueboy said:

Why would people tip 15% if it’s priced at $9.95 but 20% if it’s priced at $10?  Are you suggesting people who order less than $10 are cheap or they just can’t do basic math?

A more profound question for you: Why would a merchant price something at $9.95 when they could price it at $10?

Link to post
Share on other sites
10 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

A more profound question for you: Why would a merchant price something at $9.95 when they could price it at $10?

As I understand it, some people have psychological barriers when it comes to spending.  So some people won’t order anything that costs $10.  So you’re implying these cost conscious people would only tip 15%.  It’s a reasonable theory.

Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Ericandblueboy said:

As I understand it, some people have psychological barriers when it comes to spending.  So some people won’t order anything that costs $10.  So you’re implying these cost conscious people would only tip 15%.  It’s a reasonable theory.

Eric, it's a hypothesis, not a theory. I think it might make for an interesting study, and all you'd need to do is examine bills from the past in different types of restaurants to come up with a pattern.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am very much in favor of paying a living wage to all workers and changing from a tipped minimum wage to just minimum wage would go a long way towards that. The costs of this would absolutely be borne by the consumer, as very few restaurants could absorb the financial hit wage increase would cause, without significantly raising prices. A 100 seat restaurant that serves lunch and dinner seven days a week with approximately 12 tipped staff working each day, would see an etsimated increase of $300k in payroll, mandatory sick leave, and PTEB expenses over what they are currently paying ($3.33 vs $11.50).

DC is an expensive city to dine in already (primarily due to rent) and hyper focused on the expense account crowd. This would seriously hurt the small, independent restaurants.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Something I would like to see from either the pro- or the con-side is how other cities in the United States have been affected by similar systems.  In this great land of democratic laboratories, surely there must be analogs we can study.  I don't want to hear hypotheticals about what could happen to restaurants and bars and DC--I want to know what has happened to restaurants and bars in similarly situated cities.

According to the Department of Labor, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Montana, Minnesota, and Guam have the same minimum wage for both tipped and non-tipped employees.  So, because we're talking about the effects on restaurants, let's look at San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and Las Vegas.  San Francisco will be $15 an hour starting in July.  Seattle is $15 an hour.  Portland will be $12 starting in July.  Las Vegas seems to be about $7.25 to $8.25, depending on benefits.

The increases in San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland have been recent, so perhaps their effects haven't been seen yet.  (Like those cities, the DC initiative would phase in the increase in minimum wage over a number of years.)  Or maybe the State laws in those cities treat tip credits/pooling in a fashion that's different from DC.  Or perhaps I'm missing something else--but if there is only doom and gloom coming from a standard minimum wage for tipped and non-tipped employees, we should be seeing that in these other cities.

I'm not going to draw conclusions yet, but I'm annoyed that neither the advocates nor the detractors are giving voters real data to consider.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

There are two competing studies looking at Seattle, one by researchers at the University of Washington, which was partially funded by the city.  The other by researchers at UC, Berkeley.  The UW study looks at low-wage workers across various economic sectors, while the UCB study only looks at restaurant employees.

Apparently the take away is:  the UW study finds that low-wage workers are harmed, while the UCB study finds low-wage restaurant workers have benefited.  Needless to say, opponents of $15 point to the UW study and proponents point to the UCB study.

CNN article

 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, Poivrot Farci said:

Hourly mean wage for cooks in DC is $14.93

Hourly mean wage for servers in DC is $17.48.  

As DaveO notes above, these are the *reported* mean wages  Anybody who's worked as a server or bartender knows how grossly underreported their earnings can be, even in this increasingly cashless society where it's harder to hide tips than it used to be.  The line cooks, OTOH, typically report every dollar they earn in those calculations. Thus, the standard deviation on the average wage for FOH staff completely dwarfs that of BOH.  There are servers able to earn many *times* those mean wages in higher end or very busy joints all over this city, with the right shifts. That's just not true for a line cook. This proposal or something like it would give a very real but relatively modest bump to kitchen staff and might even bring those averages in line; relative, that is, to a bartender who could see a drastic cut in take home pay.   The potential severity of the impact on any individual employee is absolutely asymmetrical.

There is no easy answer.  I would rather see the minimum non-tipped wage increase and leave tipped wages where they are.  Costs would increase, but in that scenario it's (theoretically) in line with the percentage of the staff that are hourly only, and not the whole house.

Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, TedE said:

As DaveO notes above, these are the *reported* mean wages  Anybody who's worked as a server or bartender knows how grossly underreported their earnings can be, even in this increasingly cashless society where it's harder to hide tips than it used to be.  The line cooks, OTOH, typically report every dollar they earn in those calculations. Thus, the standard deviation on the average wage for FOH staff completely dwarfs that of BOH.  There are servers able to earn many *times* those mean wages in higher end or very busy joints all over this city, with the right shifts. That's just not true for a line cook. This proposal or something like it would give a very real but relatively modest bump to kitchen staff and might even bring those averages in line; relative, that is, to a bartender who could see a drastic cut in take home pay.   The potential severity of the impact on any individual employee is absolutely asymmetrical.

There is no easy answer.  I would rather see the minimum non-tipped wage increase and leave tipped wages where they are.  Costs would increase, but in that scenario it's (theoretically) in line with the percentage of the staff that are hourly only, and not the whole house.

I also know there are plenty of terrible shifts for bartenders (and I assume servers).  I have no idea as to the "real" average hourly wage for FOH staff is greater or less than that reported BLS.  In this forum we reference well known restaurants and often busy restaurants.  There are a great number of places throughout DC that neither get mentioned here and/or have terribly slow shifts. 

5 hours ago, Tweaked said:

There are two competing studies looking at Seattle, one by researchers at the University of Washington, which was partially funded by the city.  The other by researchers at UC, Berkeley.  The UW study looks at low-wage workers across various economic sectors, while the UCB study only looks at restaurant employees.

Apparently the take away is:  the UW study finds that low-wage workers are harmed, while the UCB study finds low-wage restaurant workers have benefited.  Needless to say, opponents of $15 point to the UW study and proponents point to the UCB study.

CNN article

Love seeing hard data. 

Dammit wouldn't you know it.  Two studies two different two different sets of results.

4 hours ago, TedE said:

There is no easy answer.  I would rather see the minimum non-tipped wage increase and leave tipped wages where they are.  Costs would increase, but in that scenario it's (theoretically) in line with the percentage of the staff that are hourly only, and not the whole house.

Where this will hit is the restaurants on the margin.  Oooof. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Pineapples & Pearls is the unicorn which apparently compensates and offers benefits comfortably above the minimum legal requirement.  Gratuity is included in the price and curiously Mr. Silverman is a signatory on the "NO 77."

Being forced/shamed into paying a gratuity to a bartender that very simply opens a very consistently made beverage container is ridiculous, as is rewarding/penalizing a server to/from their sub-par wage for their congeniality and transporting excellent/awful food which they had no part in making.  The FOH/BOH  wage disparity that restaurants happily tolerate and perpetuate is disgusting.  I've heard that Culinary schools were the templates for Trump University.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, DaveO said:

I also know there are plenty of terrible shifts for bartenders (and I assume servers).  I have no idea as to the "real" average hourly wage for FOH staff is greater or less than that reported BLS.  In this forum we reference well known restaurants and often busy restaurants.  There are a great number of places throughout DC that neither get mentioned here and/or have terribly slow shifts. 

Yes, there are low-wage shifts and places where FOH just doesn't earn that much due to volume, food prices, clientele, whatever. Those are the folks this effort is looking to help, and it can be done without undercutting servers who are already making good money.  If the goal is to get all workers to a $15 minimum wage (which means the *average* will actually be much higher than the $15/$17.50 break down currently) it only takes two things, and one of them is already in place:

1) Enforce the current regulations that requires owners to make up hourly wages for any FOH employee that is not able to reach a $12.50 hourly average (and phase in a yearly increase to bring that up to $15 by whatever deadline)

2) Phase in wage increases for BOH hourly workers up to $15

However, I suspect that enforcement of #1 is either very hard or non-existent.  Any employee suffering from wage theft at that income level would be highly unlikely to speak up for fear of losing their already low-paying job.  So make the regulations tougher: significantly raise fines for violations and model them after whistle blower laws that pay out a significant portion of said fines to the complainant.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/30/2018 at 7:21 PM, Poivrot Farci said:

Pineapples & Pearls is the unicorn which apparently compensates and offers benefits comfortably above the minimum legal requirement.  Gratuity is included in the price and curiously Mr. Silverman is a signatory on the "NO 77."

Being forced/shamed into paying a gratuity to a bartender that very simply opens a very consistently made beverage container is ridiculous, as is rewarding/penalizing a server to/from their sub-par wage for their congeniality and transporting excellent/awful food which they had no part in making.  The FOH/BOH  wage disparity that restaurants happily tolerate and perpetuate is disgusting.  I've heard that Culinary schools were the templates for Trump University.

Articulate sarcasm.  Made me chuckle.  Of course I have a bias toward FOH but I fully understand the disparity between higher end FOH incomes and most BOH salaries and recognize that BOH staff get the income shaft.   As to "Culinary schools were the templates for Trump University"  I'll add that we have operated bartending schools in this and other regions for decades.  I'll defend our schools.  We have always worked extra hard on the placement side and had good results--far more than other schools with which I'm familiar.  In general though.....hmmmm  if they aren't helping people landing work they do have a lot in common with trump U.  I'd agree on that.

On 5/31/2018 at 12:50 PM, TedE said:

Yes, there are low-wage shifts and places where FOH just doesn't earn that much due to volume, food prices, clientele, whatever. Those are the folks this effort is looking to help, and it can be done without undercutting servers who are already making good money.  If the goal is to get all workers to a $15 minimum wage (which means the *average* will actually be much higher than the $15/$17.50 break down currently) it only takes two things, and one of them is already in place:

1) Enforce the current regulations that requires owners to make up hourly wages for any FOH employee that is not able to reach a $12.50 hourly average (and phase in a yearly increase to bring that up to $15 by whatever deadline)

2) Phase in wage increases for BOH hourly workers up to $15

However, I suspect that enforcement of #1 is either very hard or non-existent.  Any employee suffering from wage theft at that income level would be highly unlikely to speak up for fear of losing their already low-paying job.  So make the regulations tougher: significantly raise fines for violations and model them after whistle blower laws that pay out a significant portion of said fines to the complainant.

I don't know how well enforcement works and how well it is staffed.  I learned about a place that was probably under reporting for  probably a decade that got snagged this past spring.  Evidently the owners paid a big fine.  Now they are reporting income on FOH staff.  I know on hot weekends FOH bartenders (the place is mostly FOH bartenders/not servers) can probably make $30,40,50,/hr.  Weekday nights-> zippety doo dah.  On some weekends they are slow so income can dip below $30/hr.  I imagine all bartenders are part time. 

Not knowing anything about this, I'd take a bet that DC is too understaffed to effectively enforce what you suggest.   Just a guess, but I'd bet on it.  I'd guess other jurisdictions are similarly understaffed in that regard.

On the other hand we hear stories from both sides of the fence.  Some bartenders easily clear way over $100 grand/year.  Some get close to $200/year.  On the other hand we hear plenty of stories of bartenders making $25 total tips for an 8 hour shift.  It is remarkably inconsistent.

Link to post
Share on other sites

My impulse has been on the "no" side since I started hearing about this, because I trusted the few owners of great small places whom I know who were publicly asking for "no" votes.

I am disappointed that both sides' rhetoric has been simplistic and over-the-top. Neither side wants to start with basic simple points - that tipped workers *are* guaranteed the same minimum hourly rate as anyone else under the current system, and that any mom-n-pop could go to a "no tipping" model without raising net cost to customer. What we are arguing about, I think, are (a) worries about the irrational reactions of customers to a no-tipping-but-higher-menu-price model and (b) probably some other behind-closed-doors stuff that neither side wants to talk about.

But at this point I am an inch away from voting "yes" because the "no" side is in bed with Rick Berman (the worst corporate astroturf scumbag in the country) and other folks whom I consider terrible.

I guess the take-away for me is that management is management, even when it is people whom I know and like - and even if they are not ill-motivated, they are cautious in favor of their own interests in navigating the existing system as they know it.

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, sheldman said:

But at this point I am an inch away from voting "yes" because the "no" side is in bed with Rick Berman (the worst corporate astroturf scumbag in the country) and other folks whom I consider terrible.

Caveat: I have no dog in this fight and am watching bemused from across the state line.

That being said, I tend to focus on the substance of the policy rather than the actors on one side or another.  I absolutely support the idea that those working in restaurants deserve a better living wage.  However, this policy targets the wrong part of the house - the one that's more highly compensated by and large! The issue for the owners (again, don't really know any on a personal level in DC) is that they will absolutely bear the cost of this because MD & VA restaurants will not have to do the same thing, which limits the ability of DC restaurants to pass on price increases directly.  This is exactly what's happened to MoCo restaurants with the absurd DLC monopoly.  They're just structurally less profitable in a business where margins are low anyway. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, zgast said:

Caveat: I have no dog in this fight and am watching bemused from across the state line.

That being said, I tend to focus on the substance of the policy rather than the actors on one side or another.

I think that, although it is a very imperfect way of making political decisions, "who's behind this" is often the best realistic way of making decisions that many of us have.

I don't know the first damn thing about the economics of running a restaurant, whether it be IHOP or Ruth's Chris or Tail Up Goat or icky dirty no-name place.  I don't know the first damn thing about how many restaurant customers will actually drive to VA or MD instead of DC to save a few bucks. I am tempted to think that I know those things; but when I pretend, I am only rationalizing my gut hunches about which side of the issue feels right to me. And I'm pretty good at this sort of policy stuff compared to the average voter, I think.

So, when I realize that IHOP and Ruth's Chris and the like have more at stake in this than anyone else - to try to block it here in DC not only for the sake of their operations in DC, but so that it does not spread - and when I see that they or someone have hired Rick f'in Berman and others - that tells me more than anything else. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't believe there will be mass migration of workers and diners from DC to VA/MD.  There are many ethnic restaurants in DC charging substantially higher prices than their VA/MD counterparts but I see few DC residents driving to the burbs to eat. 

For example, sai oua is $14 at Thip Khao but $9 at Padaek.

Maketto charges $8 for shrimp dumplings but Mark's Duck House/Fortune/Hong Kong Pearl charge less than $4.

In addition, @sheldman has already pointed out "that tipped workers *are* guaranteed the same minimum hourly rate as anyone else under the current system, and that any mom-n-pop could go to a "no tipping" model without raising net cost to customer."

Given that the DC diners aren't willing to commute to eat, then there wouldn't be higher demand for servers in VA/MD.  No doubt some of the FoH people think that eliminating the tipped minimum wage also means the end of the tipping system and they are voting/advocating only in favor of their own pocketbooks.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/3/2018 at 1:41 PM, DonRocks said:

I'll be issuing an opinion on this, but I need a couple of days to familiarize myself with the specifics of the Initiative.

Keep in mind that I have acquaintances with many restaurateurs, and have also spoken out on behalf of employees for ROC-DC (yes, that's me, years ago):

ROC-DC.jpg

In other words, my position is sympathetic to both management and labor, and is largely malleable at this point, with the caveats that my tendency is to support people who need help the most (in other words, I tend to support the underprivileged), and I have, of course, been very vocal over the years in eliminating the tipping system, because servers are absurdly overpaid relative to line cooks, dishwashers, busers, and AGMs. To date, I have witnessed attempts at eliminating tipping, and it has generally only worked at the highest-end restaurants (and places like The Swiss Bakery), so in practical terms, I'm going into this with the attitude that the elimination of the tipped minimum wage system must be done by everybody, or it will fail, because if it's done piecemeal, then restaurants won't be on even footing with one-another. With that in mind, the big question for me is: What are the specifics of this Ballot Initiative, and what are the arguments of the "Vote No" letter - I'm probably going to parse the letter online, sentence-by-sentence, as I read it, giving my thoughts as I go. Stay tuned ...

---

In the meantime, do you know whose voices aren't being heard? Those of line cooks, dishwashers, busers, and AGMs. If anyone in this position wishes to write me in order to voice an opinion here, but fears recrimination from their employer, I GIVE YOU MY ABSOLUTE WORD OF HONOR THAT YOU WILL REMAIN ANONYMOUS, NOBODY WILL EVER KNOW WHO YOU ARE, AND THAT  in such a s WORDS WILL BE HEARD HERE. I apologize for the sloppy Google Translate, but: 

DÉ A TODOS MI PALABRA ABSOLUTA DE HONOR QUE TODOS QUEDARÁN ANÓNIMOS, NADIE SABRÁ QUIÉNES SON, Y QUE SUS PALABRAS SE IMPRIMIRÁN AQUÍ.

Email me at donrockwell@dcdining.com in strict confidence with your name, occupation, place of employment and thoughts about this issue. In a few weeks, I will display an anonymous list of all the comments I receive.

Just because I said I would, and I'm not ...

* I purposely haven't read the bill (I live in Virginia), as I decided I wouldn't be issuing an opinion. 

* I didn't hear from one, single person (refer to the bottom of the quoted text). I absolutely believe that these people's voices are not being heard (how many dishwashers have you heard from regarding this?) Answer: none.

* The only thing I will say is that nearly every argument I've heard so far is about whether or not servers and bartenders will suffer, as they have the most at-risk. That does not concern me - once again, it is the line cooks, dishwashers, busers, and AGMs (yes, AGMs, and I'll say it a thousand times if need be) who are the most grossly underpaid in the industry. If an issue comes up regarding wage equality between dishwashers and servers, for example, I will be on the front lines, as I do not believe that dishwashers would be adequately represented in such a scenario. If anyone wants to start yelling, "Free market, blah blah blah," my response will be: "For the exact same money, would you rather be a dishwasher, or a server?" "But Don, the labor pool is larger for dishwashers - classic supply-and-demand ..." No. I've thought about this a *lot* over the years, and I believe there are other, more "unfortunate" factors at play here. Just hope that this issue doesn't come up in the future, or this economic conservative will turn into the most vocal Commie you've ever seen.

* I'll quietly say this much: I suspect there's a silent majority out there who abhors tipping more than anyone realizes. Perhaps even more than *they* realize, as it's the only thing they've ever known, and they're being loudly told how to think by "experts." How many signs have you seen that said, "Yes on 77!" (Not many.) And who is displaying all these signs that say "No on 77!" They must know, right? I mean, they're the restaurant owners. Yes, I know, pretty cynical and condescending viewpoints.

* Don't forget the doom-and-gloom surrounding the smoking bans.

---

* I am resting silent on Prop 77, as I have chosen not to read the bill.

---

1 hour ago, Tweaked said:

Ok DC folks, Yes or No...go vote.

Just so Tweaked's post doesn't get lost.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...