When minimum wage workers don’t want a raise…

Seattle has just raised its minimum wage…to $15 an hour.  You read that right.  $15.  In North Carolina, the minimum wage is $7.25, so Seattle’s will be more than double ours.  And in case you’re wondering, that’s equivalent to a little more than $30,000 a year for a full-time employee.

The Locke Foundation’s Roy Cordato wrote about this increase in his weekly newsletter today.  He argues that it will hurt teenagers and low-skilled workers, as many will be priced out of their jobs.  And he’s right.  $30,000 a year, plus benefits, for McDonald’s cashiers?

But there’s another aspect of this that I also find interesting.  Many waiters and bartenders actually campaigned AGAINST the increase in Seattle.  They argued that, even if they kept their jobs, they’d lose tips, and that’s where they make the real money.

Fearing a dip in their tip income, some are telling local politicians they’re just fine with the status quo. In Washington state, that means $9.32 an hour—plus tips that, for Seattle bartender Bridget Maloney, can add another $45 an hour on weekends….

“People are talking about moving to a European system of tipping,” says Maloney, 28, meaning less automatic and not as generous. “I have built a life around the current model of tipping,” she says….

She certainly has built a life around it.

Bartender Maloney says she’s one minimum-wage worker who doesn’t need the help. After working double shifts and long nights, she’s enjoying a vacation. She voiced her opposition via e-mail—from Barcelona.

I’ll not be taking any vacations to Spain anytime soon.  Bridget seems to be doing ok.

Bridget may well be right about tips dropping.  At least some restaurant owners have talked about removing the tip line from receipts altogether when the change goes through.  And it’s likely that, as restaurant prices go up (which they will have to in order to cover the increased wages), people will eat out less and be a little less generous with their tips.   And thus the minimum wage hike, like so many progressive policies, will hurt a whole category of people it’s intended to help.

Julie Tisdale / City and County Policy Analyst

Julie Tisdale is City and County Policy Analyst at the John Locke Foundation. Before coming to the Locke Foundation as the research publications coordinator, she worked at the...

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