Chief of national restaurant group backs $1.25 tip credit
WE'D say that the big gun of the NRA is in town, but TheBuzz used that descriptor when the last National Restaurant Association chairman shot through Honolulu.
Ed Tinsley is here to meet Hawaii Restaurant Association members and help lobby lawmakers about key issues, among other activities.
The 25-cent tip credit may not be a hot-button issue at the Legislature this time around, but the law that allows restaurateurs to pay tipped employees 25 cents an hour less than the minimum wage is still important to the food service industry.
Restaurants are now paying a higher minimum wage to all employees, including those who more than make up the missing quarter, via tips.
The National Restaurant Association and the Hawaii Restaurant Association favor increasing the tip credit for restaurant employees from 25 cents to $1.25.*
"To me, it's a shame that so many of our elected officials don't understand the dynamic of how that works," Tinsley told TheBuzz.
"What I have noticed in Washington, speaking to Congressmen and Senators, is when I tell our story about what our servers really do earn (along with tips) and how that translates against a wage level, then, a light comes on," he said.
"I think it's up to us as an industry to work more diligently with (elected) folks so that they understand it."
Seven states have no-tip credit, and unionized workers at Turtle Bay Resort won a wage concession --be phased in over four years -- that will eliminate the tip credit there.
The association feels its industry "is really the cornerstone of the American economy," Tinsley said.
"I think really Hawaii exemplifies so much the hospitality industry because so much of the economy (is based on) restaurants, hotels and tourism in general."
Nationally the industry calculates its economic impact at $540 billion a year, or 4 percent of the gross domestic product.
Adding in suppliers, vendors and other industries that do business with restaurants, it is closer to 10 percent, he said.
In addition to the whole cornerstone thing, "we also represent the American dream, being the largest private employer in the country with 12.8 million people right now. We are the largest employer of immigrants, female managers and minorities and the largest employer of young people."
Fifty percent of all Americans have worked in the restaurant industry and one-third had their first job in the industry, he said.
Many have stayed in the industry, working their way up "from the dish room to the board room."
The association has forged stronger ties with hotel and lodging associations, because "one of the things that is becoming more and more obvious, or important, is the culinary experience that so many of our hotels like to have associated with their venues," Tinsley said.
Some travelers are increasingly basing destination decisions on the "culinary advantage" that one may have over another. Hawaii recently tied for 7th place, along with several other states, in a study of travelers' preferred dining destinations.
"That says a lot," Tinsley said.
Tinsley, a New Mexico restaurateur, and a one-time Hawaii waiter who is now in Congress, were on opposite sides of a big labor issue that faced a vote in the U.S. House today. (See related story above.)
Tinsley said he would "be remiss," if he did not raise H.R. 800 and how the Hawaii Congressional delegation's support of it had been a concern.
The bill, called the Employee Free Choice Act, was co-sponsored by Rep. Neil Abercrombie, a former server at the original Chuck's Steak House in Waikiki.
"Nobody's a better friend to the restaurant industry," Abercrombie said of himself, citing his support of tax deductions for business meals, entertainment and spousal travel.
Abercrombie said he co-sponsored H.R. 800 because, "the current system is completely undemocratic," and gives employers the upper hand.
"The opportunity to bargain collectively ... should be everybody's right," he said.
The bill proposes to eliminate employers' ability to demand a union election, if enough workers sign cards supporting representation.
In opposing the bill, Tinsley argued that, "We as an industry have to respect the employees' and the employers' right to a secret ballot, versus having it out in the open."
Abercrombie downplayed privacy concerns.
"You gotta know whether it's a real person or not, you don't want to have fraud ... people really have to want it, to put their name on the line," he said.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
» The National Restaurant Association and the Hawaii Restaurant Association favor increasing the tip credit for restaurant employees from 25 cents to $1.25. A column on Page C1 Thursday omitted this position, and a headline on the column incorrectly indicated that the national association's chairman supported the 25-cent level.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com