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Will tipping's rapid spread make it an irresistible political target?

Working Lunch: Even unions can't seem to make up their minds on whether it's a good thing or a detriment to workers.

Tipping’s widespread adoption by fast-food restaurants has many operators wondering when consumers will decide enough is enough. Why should they leave a dollar for a counter worker who did nothing more than hand them a $6 coffee?

But the implications don’t end there, as this week’s edition of Working Lunch attests. The politically focused podcast notes that tipping is spreading to more sectors of the restaurant business as organized labor ramps up its efforts to keep gratuities from counting as wages, a concession to employers known as the tip credit. If they succeed, the propensity of customers to tip will likely be dampened, as servers discovered in Maine when that state briefly disallowed the credit last decade.

Co-host Joe Kefauver, a partner in the Orlando-based government-affairs consultancy Align Public Strategies, noted during the episode that even the unions looking to kill the credit seem divided over tipping’s value. As he pointed out, the union representing organized Starbucks workers has listed an ability for baristas to receive tips as one of the concessions it’s demanding from management. Yet the very same union, Service Employees International Union, backs a group that’s dedicated to killing the credit and having tipped workers receive straight wages instead.

“Seems a little hypocritical,” commented Kefauver.

His springboard for the session was a major report on tipping published last month by Restaurant Business, called Tipping Point. He was joined on the broadcast by two of the special report’s authors, RB’s Joe Guszkowski and myself.

Kefauver and co-host Franklin Coley also recapped key political developments of the prior week, such as the bellwether elections that were held in Wisconsin and Chicago.

Download the episode from wherever you usually get your podcasts.

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