Lawsuit Over Who Gets Starbucks Tips

Cross-posted from

I imagine Mr. Pink doesn’t tip at Starbucks. Hell, I don’t “tip” at Starbucks. Occasionally, I don’t feel like having 30 cents clanging around in my pocket all day, so I throw it in the tip jar. But there’s only so much I can pay for a cup of coffee in good conscience.

Apparently, there’s a lawsuit kicking around the New York Court of Appeals over who owns the tips at Starbucks. The baristas are fighting to keep control over the jar and not share the tips with assistant managers.

It’s kind of sad. At this point, why not just dump the tip jar out on the floor at the end of the day and watch them fight over it…

The Starbucks decision could have a significant impact on the hospitality industry in New York. Here’s a report from CBS News:

The Court of Appeals was asked by a federal court to interpret New York’s labor law and its definition of an employer’s “agent,” who is prohibited from tip sharing.

On one side are low-level baristas who serve customers and share tips weekly based on hours worked. On the other side are assistant managers who don’t get any gratuities and want some. In between are shift supervisors with limited management responsibilities who serve customers and also share tips.

Starbucks — which thinks that its assistant managers should not get tips — points out that their assistant managers are salaried full-time employees with performance-based bonuses. Lawyers for the assistant managers argue that they are not “agents” because they don’t have hiring and firing capabilities.

I feel sorry for these people, I really do. They shouldn’t have to fight over loose change. I do think that assistant managers are in the wrong; they get bonuses, and they knew damn well their jobs were not “tips” jobs when they signed up.

But this does, you know, illustrate a little bit of what Quentin Tarantino was getting at when he wrote that bit for Mr. Pink. Society somewhat arbitrarily decides which people get tips and which people don’t. It’s not like you are tipping your Starbucks barista for his or her specific skill and talent in pouring your coffee. Instead, you’re slavishly giving a billion-dollar corporation loose change because they put a freaking jar on the counter. I can see why the assistant managers want a cut.

Of course, if the assistant managers win, hospitality personnel will come out of the woodwork wanting tip money, and “mandatory gratuity” will go up. Middle-class customers will get screwed a little more, to help out lower-class service employees, who can’t otherwise get a living wage from their employers.

You know what I think?

“I’m very sorry the government taxes their tips, that’s f**ked up. That ain’t my fault. It would seem to me that waitresses are one of the many groups the government f**ks in the ass on a regular basis. Look, if you ask me to sign something that says the government shouldn’t do that, I’ll sign it, put it to a vote, I’ll vote for it, but what I won’t do is play ball.”

N.Y.’s top court to decide who can tap Starbucks’ tip jars [CBS News]

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