The history of tipping, and how it’s changing

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Tipping after meals at restaurants is almost second-nature for many Americans. But the practice is changing as more people begin to question why we tip. 

In many states, employers are allowed to pay a tipped staff a lower minimum wage. Minnesota is one of the few states in the nation that requires employers to pay tipped employees full state minimum wage before factoring in tips. 

Tipping also has a dark history in the United States. Tipping has been linked to the end of slavery, when employers wanted an excuse to pay recently freed Black Americans less. 

More restaurants are beginning to eliminate tipping, opting instead to charge a service or hospitality fee. 

MPR News host Angela Davis talks about the history of tipping in the United States, how it’s changing and the push for higher wages for service workers.

Guests: 

  • Saru Jayaraman is the President of One Fair Wage and Director of the Food Labor Research Center at University of California, Berkeley. She is also the co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, a non-profit that advocates to improve wages for restaurant workers.

  • Paul Bagdan is a Professor of Hospitality at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, where he researches guest service and tip elimination.

  • Teófilo Reyes is the Chief Program Officer for Restaurant Opportunities Center United. 

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