Recent policy victories for food service workers are a step towards professionalizing the industry.

by Mariama Sidime, The Progressive

Leaving a tip at the end of a meal in a restaurant is a customary practice to most Americans, but few diners are familiar with its history or its continued impact on workers.

Tipping originated in the Reconstruction Era, in a labor market where tips allowed employers to hire Black sharecroppers, railroad porters, servants, and waiters for little pay. Today, Black women tipped workers can make up to $5 per hour less than white male counterparts and, in states where it is legal to pay tipped workers $2.13 an hour, 18.5 percent of servers and bartenders live in poverty. These issues have driven the campaign to increase the minimum wage, which is an important step towards creating sustainable career paths in food service.

workers wipe down tables in a restaurant

In early October, Chicago’s city council passed an ordinance to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers by 8 percent over the next five years until it meets the city’s $15.80 minimum wage in 2028. Chicago joins Alaska, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, D.C. in changing a policy that has kept the tipped minimum wage stagnant since 1991. In these places, any tip left is in addition to the standard minimum wage.

Read More