Response on the “Tip Credit”

In November, a clear majority of Maine voters passed a referendum to raise the state minimum wage, and to gradually eliminate the so-called “tip credit”–sub-minimum wages for tipped workers such as waiters or bartenders. On the urging of Gov. Paul LePage, Republicans in the state legislature–with the co-sponsorship of 8 Democratic legislators–have introduced a bill to defy the will of the voters, and restore slave wages for tipped workers. A person purporting to be a tipped worker in Ogunquit (a very wealthy summer enclave in York County) wrote to our friend and comrade, Tom MacMillan (Socialist Party USA organizer in eastern Maine) asking him to support this rollback. We reprint his response, as a succinct summary of why we oppose this bipartisan attack on workers’ wages.

I am well aware of what the tip credit is and I am absolutely opposed to it. The tip credit causes poverty, see this article. You may do well as a tipped worker, but many do not. Moreover, no one should have their income determined by their customers.

There are virtually no other lines of work where people are paid a sub-minimum wage and their clients are expected to make up the difference. Waitstaff and bartenders are less likely to be in poverty when they are paid the regular minimum wage.

I think you may need to examine your own privilege as a tipped worker in an affluent and tourist-driven part of Maine.

By fighting for this vestige of slavery, you are betraying other working-class people and siding with your boss, who would gladly fire you if given the chance to replace you with someone more profitable for him.