100 signatures reached
To: Asheville’s US Cellular Center/Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
Let concession patrons leave tips and allow concession workers to keep them
1. Stop discouraging patrons who want to leave tips for service and allow workers to keep cash tips they earn.
2. Place a tipped worker representative or liaison on the Civic Center Commission for representation and transparency.
Why is this important?
The US Cellular Center is Asheville’s largest multi-purpose arena, with 7,654 seats. Located downtown, the Center is home to popular annual events like the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam and SoCon Basketball Tournament. The Thomas Wolfe Auditorium is located right next door, has a seating capacity of 2,431 and is home to the Asheville Symphony. Patrons of both arenas can order food, soda, cocktails, beer and wine at concession stands located throughout each venue. All stands accept cash and many accept credit cards but there is no way to leave a tip on a credit card slip. Alcohol sales are high during these big events and require responsible alcohol service and bartenders that know how to hustle.
The City employs part-time/seasonal workers but for these large events, they also use independent contractors. In addition, the Center runs a popular and successful Non-Profit Organization Concession program. Participating community groups provide much needed ‘workers’ to fill in the employment gaps. For their participation, these groups receive 10% of food sales and 5% of beer sales donated directly by the Center.
Ok, so imagine you’re at one of these shows and you find yourself thirsty for a cold one. You’ve got cash and you pay for your awesome, local craft beer. You leave $1 or $2 a for the person who poured your beer.
But where does that tip actually go?
Prior to 2015, it used to go into a “tip pool” that was divided among set-up staff who got (20%) off the top. The remaining was divided up between concession bartending staff at (30%) and (70%) for non-profit volunteers working concessions for donations.
In September of 2015, The City decided to give these part-time seasonal City workers a raise to Asheville’s living wage of $12.50 per hour. Full-time City workers got that raise in 2007, so this move was long overdue and praised by community groups and City Council alike. While everyone was applauding the move, the General Manager of the Cellular Center stated the new policy that “the tips will go away.” When this policy went into effect, employees were made to sign a document confirming they would no longer accept ANY tips and if they got caught ‘pocketing’ them, they could be fired.
Of course, good folks still leave tips for service. Sometimes there are tip jars, sometimes not. Sometimes tip jars are labelled as non-profits donations and sometimes they are not. The responsibility of relaying the non-tipping policy is left to the worker, busy pouring beer, making change and managing the crowds. Patrons are often confused and annoyed. Workers report some are just insistent, sticking money in their pockets.
At the launch of this campaign, workers report they receive NO CASH TIPS and participating non-profits get ALL CASH TIPS whether there is a donation sign or not. Workers at such recent events as a 2016 New Year’s Eve music show and when a famous comedian came to town, report seeing “4-inch stacks of cash” carted away by stand managers, not to be seen again. This is an unethical policy and takes advantage of the goodwill patrons want to develop with staff.
We demand that the US Cellular Center management and the CIvic Center Commission allow workers to retain some of the tips they earn at concession stands. It’s bad customer service If patrons want to tip and are barred. Plus, it’s combative to workers who fear job loss if they keep any of their tips.
We need tip transparency and these workers deserve their tips, regardless of their hourly pay rate. Join our campaign by signing this petition for change. Thanks for your support!