Chicago Might Be the Next City to Change the Relationship Between Tipping and the Minimum Wage

If passed, the measure would be part of a growing trend

Restaurant check with credit cards
The connection between tipping and minimum wages remains fraught.
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For years now, there have been several debates circulating around the minimum wage in various states across the country. One of those is simply whether the minimum wage in the U.S. is high enough — and is the reason that the Fight for 15 Movement became very prominent in recent years. There’s another debate going on in a similar vein that’s a little harder to quantify — and it has to do with who actually is eligible for the minimum wage.

Specifically, it centers around whether restaurant workers can be paid an hourly wage below the minimum wage, with money from tips nominally making up the difference. Some cities and states have voted to change those policies — meaning that a server at a restaurant would no longer depend on tips to reach that state’s minimum wage.

As Renee Hickman reports at Eater Chicago, the Windy City’s government appears to be close to making it the next city to effectively raise the minimum wage for certain restaurant workers and change the way that tips are handled. This follows a similar change, Hickman writes, in Washington, D.C. It’s worth noting that there are good reasons to do this — Hickman cites data that suggests that tipping dropped between the first and second quarters of this year.

Your Favorite Food Delivery App Is Probably Suing New York City Right Now
At issue is a new minimum wage law for delivery workers

Hickman also points out that certain states do not exempt restaurant workers from earning the minimum wage to begin with — suggesting that there are plenty of places around the country where this whole debate is relatively moot.

And that’s without getting into the experiments that some restaurant owners have done — notably, Danny Meyer — in terms of eliminating tipping in favor of raising prices. Though it’s worth pointing out that Meyer’s restaurants rolled back this policy, albeit several months into the pandemic in 2020, when the restaurant industry was experiencing never-before-seen levels of turbulence.

“We’ve come to believe that it’s the inability to share tips that is the problem, not the tips themselves,” Meyer wrote at the time. “Our ultimate goal is for your tips to be shared among our entire team, so both kitchen and dining room teams can benefit when a guest has a great experience.” And while the action of a private business owner is not the same as a local or state government taking action, Meyer’s experience does indicate some useful lessons that those crafting policies could take note of.


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