The Corner

How About Just Paying Them More?

Maria Shriver is helping Marriott hotels avoid raising the pay for its housekeepers.

Perhaps fearing that the minimum-wage campaign directed at fast-food restaurants will turn its red and fiery eye toward hotels, Marriott has teamed up with Shriver and her group A Woman’s Nation, to launch a campaign dubbed “The Envelope Please.” It will ”put envelopes in hotel rooms to encourage tipping” at Marriott’s various brands, including Courtyard, Residence Inn, J.W. Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and Renaissance hotels. The hotel chain is even suggesting how much to tip: “Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson says $1 to $5 per night, depending on room rate, with more for a high-priced suite.”

If the housekeepers’ exertions warrant that money — and I’m sure they do — why doesn’t Marriott just raise their pay by $1 to $5 per room per night? The company’s press release has the gall to describe “Gratitude Envelopes,” as though women making beds and cleaning bathrooms to make ends meet are engaged in a charitable activity. It’s not even likely this would increase the real wages for housekeepers in the long run in any case; the federal minimum wage for employees who receive at least $30 a month in tips is just $2.13 an hour (something I was chagrined to discover when I waited tables lo these many years ago). If tipping housekeepers became universal, hotels would stop raising their pay and eventually start hiring new ones at the tipping minimum wage, at which point you’d kind of have to tip, as with waiters, since that would be their main source of income. Hotels would thus be able to emulate restaurants, whose advertised menu prices are artificially low and do not reflect the actual cost customers have to pay.

The whole concept of tipping is a distortion of what should be a normal, transparent business transaction. I don’t tip Marriott’s laundry service or its food wholesaler — those costs are figured into the price I pay for a room. If you want someone to carry your bags, that’s optional and you should have to pay extra. But the bed being made is no different from having running water or working lights — it’s part of the standard package you’re paying for.

Do you tip your dental hygienist? The checkout lady at Walmart? The bank teller? As Rick Moranis told Steve Martin in My Blue Heaven, “This is my job. I get paid. You don’t tip FBI men.” If we’re supposed to tip housekeepers, why not bank tellers and FBI men?

The whole effort smells of Marriott paying protection money to Shriver, like Jesse Jackson’s various shakedown schemes. (None of the reporters covering this seem to have asked how large Marriott’s donation to Shriver’s organization was.)

The Census Bureau reports that about half of “maids and housekeeping cleaners” are immigrants (both legal and illegal). You know how to raise the wages of these poor, less-educated women spending their days cleaning hotel rooms? Cut immigration and tighten the labor market. You’ll see how fast hotel chains start competing with each other to attract staff by offering more money and better benefits. (Tightening up welfare rules wouldn’t hurt either.)

Instead, Marriott has lobbied to double legal immigration, in hopes of paying its housekeepers even less than it does now.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

‘Judges for the #Resistance’

At Politico, I wrote today about the judiciary’s activism against Trump on immigration: There is a lawlessness rampant in the land, but it isn’t emanating from the Trump administration. The source is the federal judges who are making a mockery of their profession by twisting the law to block the Trump ... Read More
White House

Trump’s Friendships Are America’s Asset

The stale, clichéd conceptions of Donald Trump held by both Left and Right — a man either utterly useless or only rigidly, transactionally tolerable — conceal the fact that the president does possess redeeming talents that are uniquely his, and deserve praise on their own merit. One is personal friendliness ... Read More

Columbia 1968: Another Untold Story

Fifty years ago this week, Columbia students riding the combined wave of the civil-rights and anti-war movements went on strike, occupied buildings across campus, and shut the university down. As you revisit that episode of the larger drama that was the annus horribilis 1968, bear in mind that the past isn’t ... Read More

Only the Strident Survive

‘I am not prone to anxiety,” historian Niall Ferguson wrote in the Times of London on April 22. “Last week, however, for the first time since I went through the emotional trauma of divorce, I experienced an uncontrollable panic attack.” The cause? “A few intemperate emails, inadvertently forwarded ... Read More

Poll Finds Nevada Voters Support School-Choice Programs

According to an April poll, a large number of Nevada voters support school-choice programs. The poll, conducted by Nevada Independent/Mellman, found that 70 percent of voters support a proposal for a special-needs Education Savings Account and 59 percent support expanding the funding for the current tax-credit ... Read More