Why we should abolish tipping

Every time we tip, we reinforce the idea that business owners can pay their workers less because they make so much in tips.

I tip when I eat out.

I mean, I don’t eat out anymore. Or rather, not right now. I haven’t since last March. But when I did eat out, I always tipped. Even though I’m opposed to it.

Yep. That’s right. I’m opposed to tipping. But I still do it.

Here’s the thing: the way I see it, tipping is just a way for business owners to exploit workers.

In fact, two years ago, the Government of Alberta created a panel of 9 persons to review Alberta’s minimum wage, including whether there should be a “wage differential” for hospitality workers who serve alcohol.

Let’s take a look at a statement that Restaurants Canada, an industry lobbying group, wrote leading up to the 2019 provincial election in Alberta.

“The elimination of the liquor server wage also had a notably negative impact on licensed business operators, as a liquor server wage allows restaurateurs to allocate more towards higher wages for non-gratuity earning career-oriented kitchen staff.”

Then later in the document:

“Restaurants Canada recommends a liquor-serving wage, recognizing the significant gratuities earned by servers.”

See? Right there. They use tips to justify lower wages.

And seriously? Taking wages from one subset of workers so you can purposefully give higher wages to a different subset of workers is pretty messed up. Servers still perform the labour. Paying them a lower wage because they won’t be still serving when they’re 50 is ridiculous. And it pits two groups of workers against each other.

Plus, another way business owners benefit from tips is that they pay less in deductions. For example, if their servers keep all their tips, then the business owner doesn’t need to pay their 5.45% Canada Pension Plan contribution rate. Or the employment insurance contributions they’d normally pay.

Besides, these workers get tips because people recognize their wages are low. If they made a decent wage to start with, they wouldn’t need tipping.

And that’s the primary issue with tipping. Every time we pay it, we reinforce the idea that business owners can pay their workers less because they make so much in tips. But then again, if we stop tipping, then those workers receive less income.

The only way we can abolish tipping is if first we give all workers a living wage.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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