For The Daily Gazette
I’m a bartender, a mother and now a grassroots organizer.
Why? Because Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to upend my industry.
I love being a bartender, for a multitude of reasons.
The most important is the flexibility of my schedule.
While my husband works a normal 9 to 5, I can be at home with my children.
By working opposite schedules, it allows us to spend quality time with our children while maximizing our income.
When I speak to thousands of tipped workers across our state, the two major reasons we choose to be tipped workers is the flexibility of hours and the great money we make.
Many of us are college educated, yet we chose our profession because the money is good.
Gov. Cuomo has said that he wants to change all this and upend my profession.
He has proposed ending the tip credit.
For those of that are new to this term, the tip credit allows us to count our tips towards our wage.
It helps to keep menu prices reasonable, while we continue to remain the commission-based sales people we are.
No matter how slow our week may be, we are always guaranteed the minimum wage.
Ending the tip credit will have a multitude of negative effects.
Much like we are seeing up and down the West Coast, you will begin to see increased automation; businesses will move to a quick-serve or fast-casual model; or stores will close entirely—all of which would kill jobs and ultimately tax revenue in the Empire State.
The last time New York gave tipped workers a 50 percent raise, we saw 273 full-service restaurants close (according to Census Bureau data).
When Gov. Cuomo indicated his desire to change the tipping system, I started a Facebook group—Supporters of the Tip Credit in NY.
I have learned in the last few months that we restaurant professionals are a difficult group to keep organized.
We all are tasked with juggling our personal lives, work schedules and other responsibilities.
Our Facebook group has grown to over 18,000 — which is incredible to see, but undoubtedly a huge responsibility.
I’m consistently fending off trolls from our opposition, while trying also to ensure that all members remain respectful of others, as well as be factually informed.
It truly is a full-time job, for which I don’t get paid. But my livelihood is on the line and it’s time for us who are most intimately impacted by this change to stand up for our industry.
While the governor’s intentions may be good, his intel is bad.
He has fallen under the guise of ROC (Restaurant Opportunities Center), an anti-tipping activist group.
According to filing data, ROC spent $80,000 last year to lobby Gov. Cuomo and the state Legislature.
The cost of upending and destroying my industry seems like a bargain.
ROC claims that tipping exacerbates sexual harassment.
With ROC’s encouragement, 16 female celebrities recently sent a “letter” to the governor that was published in The New York Times.
In turn, I wrote a letter showing that sexual harassment is a cultural issue and has nothing to do with tipping. I garnered more than 500 restaurant professionals to co-sign my letter.
Admittedly terrible people exist everywhere; I am more likely to be harassed in a grocery store than I am at work, where my manager would have my back in showing that offender the door.
At the public hearings over the next few months, Gov. Cuomo needs to hear the following message:
The move to eliminate the tip credit is activist driven. Few-if-any servers or bartenders want this change.
We are not asking for his help, we don’t need to be saved, and most importantly, you can keep our “raise”.
Maggie Raczynski is a bartender in Speigletown.