Getting Back to a Fair Living Wage
As most of our Member-Owners know, Black Star Co-op has a long, proud history of advocating for workers’ rights, supporting a democratic model, and paying an equitable, fair living wage to all of our workers. Yet, the past few years have presented unprecedented challenges, and our ability to pay a legitimate living wage to our workers has been inhibited by our efforts to remain in business.
The current climate of the restaurant industry as a whole has pivoted drastically over these past 8 months. Many of our local competitors have closed shop. Restaurants workers throughout the country have experienced terminations, unemployment, and longterm uncertainty. While Black Star has been able to retain many workers who have elected to continue working through the pandemic, our inability to guarantee that all workers take home a fair living wage has become unacceptable.
It should come as no surprise that the cost of living in our city has continued to increase at a pace that Black Star has been unable to match. In an effort to take corrective action and provide ourselves with what the City of Austin defines as a fair living wage, the Workers’ Assembly at Black Star Co-op has voted to implement a 5% service charge to all checks, beginning on December 1st. While we feel that this change will have a very low impact on guest experience, the small increase in revenue will have a dramatically positive impact to workers. Funds collected from the service charge will be collected and distributed directly to all non-managerial front and back of house workers, once again guaranteeing a living wage to our entire Workers’ Assembly.
To be clear, Black Star will continue to be a ‘no tipping’ establishment. We will not rely on the generosity of our guests to supplement wages, but, we believe that this small service charge will have an amazingly favorable impact on business overall. Hiring and employee retention will immediately improve, allowing for more consistency. Workplace morale will quickly be boosted. Workers will now be incentivized to increase sales while continuing to provide exceptional customer service. We look forward to the comprehensive improvements expected from this change.
The voice of our membership has repeatedly listed worker treatment and fair wages as one of our top values, and we now ask you to prove allegiance to your virtue. As the pandemic continues to ravage our country and economy, the Black Star community can proudly say that we have been able to pivot in a direction that allows our business and workers to thrive, even under the most difficult of circumstances. We would like to thank our Member-Owners in advance for your ongoing support of Black Star, and your dedication to living wages and fair worker treatment. We simply would not exist without you.