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The Past, Present and Future of Tipping and Tipped Workers in Seattle

Published on September 9, 2022

Dollar bills and quarters on a table in a restaurant
The exploitation of the Pullman porters and maids and other formerly enslaved workers essentially cemented the practice of tipping into U.S. culture. Image Credit: Circe Denyer (CC0 1.0)

Today, Washington state and Seattle have some of the best laws in the U.S. when it comes to protecting tipped workers, but the practice of tipping has an ugly beginning and a rocky past. As service industries (where most tipping happens) continue to be shaken up by the pandemic, and as the emerging gig economy raises new questions, the future for tipped workers is ripe for change and some new experiments.

“The uncomfortable history is that [tipping] is rooted in race and gender. It’s essentially a legacy of slavery,” said Kim England, Director of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington.

“Freed former slaves found it really difficult to find work and this economic desperation meant that they were more easily exploited than other workers,” England said. “White [employers] could pay very very small amounts of a regular wage, even no wage, and say that Black folks needed to work for tips.”

Continue reading at The Seattle Times.

Originally written by Crystal Paul for The Seattle Times.
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