US – Vermont – Canada – Quebec – "Queeb Tax" An Insult To Quebecers And An Affront To Economic Justice – 29 August 2012

I love Burlington, but I hate this. There’s no excuse for this. None. It is a stain on the reputations of both Burlington and Vermont to hear that this is happening.

The idea of identifying a group of people by the language they speak and punishing them _collectively_ for not leaving large enough tips, which, as I’ve always been told, are voluntary to begin with, is antediluvian. Burlington residents, and Vermonters generally, should be ashamed of any restaurant operators that would do such a thing, and certainly of any person in their midst who would refer to such a thing as a “Queeb tax”.

I have long railed against tips in any case. There is nothing phonier than something “voluntary” which one is socially expected to do. People may suggest that I support making things legal requirements which ought to be voluntary choices, and we can disagree about that, but to my knowledge I have never defended making something legally voluntary but turned my eyes in the other direction as people are punished for not doing the “voluntary” thing. I point out now, as I have consistently, that the existence of this “voluntary” tradition has been used to justify paying wait staff less in many US states. Indeed, in some states, it remains legal to pay wait staff less than the mandated minimum wage because it is _assumed_ those who wait tables _will_ get tips. (In fact, disturbingly, Vermont is one of those states; by contrast, Quebec wait staff have a right to be paid at least at the provincial minimum wage rate.) Nothing “voluntary” about that – if you don’t tip, the responsibility for the underpaying of the wait staff has been passed on to you instead of properly residing with the employer. (If it were voluntary, I could say “Give some of the money on my actual _bill_ to my waiter/waitress for the evening, instead of to the owner.” It’s not voluntary.)

If restaurant operators want people to pay more upfront, as part of the bill, for the services they offer, they should raise the price on everyone, not just on “Queebs”. Raising the price on a specific group of people is not only discriminatory, but I believe all it would take is one lawsuit to establish that it’s illegal in Vermont as well.
People from the US who complain that they can’t get served promptly when visiting Quebec hardly have a leg to stand on if they go out of their way to charge Quebecers extra just for daring to have a conversation in their own language at the dinner table.

As a teacher of economic geography, there is one more thing I can tell you about all of this – namely, that punishing an identifiable national community with a special tax – and that _is_ what this is – invites retaliation. “Queeb tax”? How do you like the sound of “impĂ´t Vermontais”? (That means “Green Mountain tax”, folks.)

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