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Dining ethically is more than just a good tip

Anyone who has ever eaten out knows that you should tip your server. But most of us most likely do not know WHY we need to leave a fair tip. For the record, I usually tip around 20%. The closest I have been to being a restaurant server was my summer at Santa's Village putting french fries and pizza puffs on people's trays. I did not wait tables to make my way through college. Why? Cause I knew I would totally and utterly suck at it. Thus, I tip as generously as I can, especially when very much earned, because I admire anyone who can remember my order, check on me and all that jazz that makes a meal out a happy event.

I was shocked to learn, a few years ago, that because servers work for tips, their minimum wage is $2.13. What the WHAT?! And that hasn't changed in 22 years. I did know that most of them do not have access to paid sick days. Which of course means people who serve you lunch have to decide to go to work sick (possibly making you sick) or staying home and losing money. What would you choose? But how can we make any difference in this situation? Well, I have a tip for you!

ROC United has released their 2014 Diners Guide [pdf] and in it I learned that there is an alternative restaurant association being built. Sadly only two Chicago restaurants are members: Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique and Uncommon Ground [pg 9-10 of the guide].
ROC United asked restaurants about their practices with regard to:
a) wages for tipped workers and non-tipped workers,
b) paid sick leave policy,
c) advancement opportunities for workers to move up the ladder.
Restaurants could earn up to 5 points or stars. In the guide itself theses Chicago restaurants earned at least a two-star rating:

DIMO’S PIZZA - 2 stars
FIG CATERING - 3 stars
HOULIHAN’S - 3 stars

They also ranked national chains including:
OLIVE GARDEN - Not only zero stars, but a sad face! In fact all Darden restaurants get the sad face because "in 2011, workers filed several federal lawsuits and legal charges against Darden for workplace violations such as discrimination and wage theft." Page 9 of the guide 

But since we all can't only eat at the restaurants who are doing a decent job in relation to their workers, ROC United includes a few business-card-sized notes you can leave with restaurants to let them know that you care about their workers. There is also a page that lists all restaurants by state, so no need to try to figure that out yourself.


Kristin said…
Thanks for bringing attention to such an important issue...and, even better, giving a way to start addressing it in daily life. Wish Chicago (and Illinois)had more restaurants in the alternative restaurant association--but glad to see that Uncommon Grounds, one of my favorite places to eat, is in it!

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