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Fair wages for all: Bloomington Brewery ditches tips, creates better work environment for employees

Posted at 12:38 PM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 14:39:09-04

BLOOMINGTON — At the end of last month, Switchyard Brewing Company announced they were doing away with tips.

The company explained their decision in a Facebook post, citing reasons like eliminating competition for the best shifts, ending the power dynamics between customer and server, and doing away with a form of payment that became popular after the Civil War when employers didn't want to pay formerly enslaved black people.

The full Facebook post can be read below.

This new way of doing business isn't the norm for service industry work.

Hospitality Director Kiley Memmott said the no-tipping policy creates fair wages for everyone, no matter what they do.

RELATED | Racist history behind tipping

"When an employee starts here, we automatically start them at $15 an hour," Memmott said. "After 90 days, they're moved up to $16 an hour. After one to two years, they're at $18 an hour. We're able to pay multiple employees that amount because we have a low turnover rate here with employees."

Along with the higher wages, Switchyard offers PTO, a month of paid parental leave and free urgent care and mental health visits. Despite the criticism they've received, mainly in the form of comments on social media, Memmott said this business model is working out for them. They get multiple applications a week.

"This place really aligns with my values. I like that a business takes care of its employees and doesn't rely on customers for that," Grace Bertsch, a part-time team leader, said.

She said with tips not being top of mind, she and her colleagues can come to work and enjoy what they're doing, knowing everyone is being paid fairly.

"I get to come to work and work," she said. "I love the service industry and I think I'm really good at it, but I don't want to do it for tips."

This is Bertsch's first job in the service industry. She had heard the horror stories so many people experience in this line of the work, putting up with it for tips. She's thankful this is something she doesn't have to endure.

RELATED | Sexual harassment and the tipped minimum wage

"I feel like I've gained a lot of confidence. If a table is being rude to me, I don't feel like I have to be all let me be nice to you so you'll tip me well because I know I'm going to leave at the end of the day with the same amount of money I would have regardless, " Bertsch said. "It gives me a lot of autonomy over who I actually am, who i want to be in my work."

As millions of Americans straddle the line of poverty, living paycheck to paycheck, Bertsch believes the business model at Switchyard is the way forward to addressing the needs of those who've chosen service industry work as their career. She believes it can also be used as a model for other industries that are way below what's a livable wage in this country.

"I think this is what America needs to do to support people's work, support the blue-collar worker, support the people who aren't in the top 1%," Bertsch said.

Memmott tells WRTV, no tipping means they did increase prices but not by a substantial amount. She says the price increase amounts to $1 more for each beer a person buys.

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