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Thursday, 13 February 2014

Speaking to San Antonio City Council Feb 12 urging council to pass a Tip Integrity Act, so that hospitality workers can keep the tips people leave for them.

Good evening Mayor Castro and members of the City Council, My name is Kelly Allen, pastor of University Presbyterian Church and I stand with a large group of supporters of the Tip Integrity Act.

People in our community of San Antonio who rely on tips to make a decent living, are some of the hardest working folks we know.  They work long hours in jobs that require lots of physical effort and spirits that are resilient, and are expected to greet even hostile customers with cheerfulness.  Their extra efforts to make our meals and parties celebrative, our hotel stays pleasant are appreciated. 

To leave a sufficient –or even a generous tip, is a way to demonstrate this appreciation directly to the person who has served you.  It is a way of honoring this short, but important interaction of people. It gives the conduct of business a personal aspect. In an age of the remote, the automated, the virtual.    Even to sometimes be charged a predetermined service charge is an agreement that good service means something, and fairness to those who serve is important. 

So to find out that someone who has gracefully placed a beautiful plate of food in front of you, who noticed the moment your water needed refilling or your coffee was getting cold, or who shared a moment of friendship with the cranky kid who was dragged to a restaurant they didn’t choose, --does not receive the tip you personally calculated for him or her to receive, feels like a betrayal of something very basic. It feels like we are being robbed of an opportunity to express our decency and appreciation to important people. It feels like another way workers are being asked to settle for less and customers are asked to settle for yet another ambiguous “surcharge” on a business transaction.

When members of my congregation began to learn that they couldn’t assume that service charges and tips would go directly to the people who had provided service to them, many were shocked.  Knowing how little workers are often paid for this hard work, it seemed the one way to make life a little bit better for someone –to ensure that workers also could treat their families to a special meal or start a college fund for their kids.  Now there are Presbyterians (and others) who routinely ask a server whether they will receive the tip they leave.

The Scriptures of all our traditions are quick to notice the contrast of words and actions in so many areas of human life.  We can use fancy words like justice and righteousness, but they don’t much matter if we don’t tend to the well being of all people in our community. Human dignity and fair business transactions are basic ethical values of all our traditions.

Letter of James in the New Testament  proclaims:  “Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts (5:4).”

It is time to move forward on  Tip Integrity………. a tip is a tip, and it is intended for and belongs rightly to, the one who serves.

Thank you very much.

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