Saturday, November 04, 2006

No Tipping Allowed

Late last night I returned from a public policy conference in Madison, Wisconsin. This conference was held at the Monona Terrace and Convention Center which is a beautiful building designed by Wisconsin native -- Frank Lloyd Wright.

As I left the conference to meet my taxi for the ride to the airport I retrieved my luggage from the Monona Terrace coat check room. The woman that helped me was very professional and personable. I did not see a tip jar for the coat check staff so I asked this lady where it was or why there wasn't a tip jar. This lady informed me that Monona Terrace is operated by the Madison city government which FORBIDS tipping. If any Monona Terrace staff receive a tip they are required to turn the money into the city government and complete some paper work to record this transaction!!!

Now this is simply crazy -- the Monona Terrace employee and I are denied our economic rights via this city policy. I received a service and wanted to award the worker for the quality service I received. But instead of this person-to-person market decision city councils like Sante Fe, Madison, and most recently Chicago (although vetoed by Mayor Richard Daley) have enacted "living wage" laws:

"The first of these expanded city wide living wage ordinances to pass was in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where an $8.50 minimum wage went into effect (after a court challenge) in June 2004. This initial level will increase to $10.50 an hour by 2008 and will thereafter be indexed to inflation. In November 2003, voters in San Francisco passed an $8.50 minimum wage for city businesses, and the Madison, Wisconsin, city council passed a $7.75 minimum wage in that city soon after."

America's workers would receive wage increases if we simply allow market forces to work -- workers who perform (aka "provide quality customer service") will be rewarded. If everyone is paid the same hourly wage due to a city council decision then we simply create an economy like the former Soviet Union which I toured in 1986. The old Soviet joke -- "we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us............." -- will become applicable in cities like Madison if they keep these anti-free market policies in place.

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