HELENA — Service industry workers often rely heavily on tips, and in some restaurants, a portion of those tips are put into a pool that is then distributed to all employees.

Current Montana law says restaurant owners can’t force employees to contribute to the pool, but a bill in the Legislature would change that. 

Supporters of Senate Bill 190, like Brad Griffin, president of the Montana Restaurant Association, said the bill would make restaurants more equitable workplaces. 

“The reason that tip pools are so important,” Griffin said, “It’s because it is a recognition that it’s more than just the server that makes the magic happen.”

Other supporters, including the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Terry Gauthier, R-Helena, said giving the cooks in the back tip money fosters teamwork.

Gauthier told a story about working as a line cook at a restaurant, where his brother was a server.

“He gave us some of his tips,” Gauthier said. “And I’ll tell you that motivated us all in the back room to do an even better job for him.”

Other restaurateurs pointed out that the bill keeps owners and managers from taking money out of the tip pool.

The bill drew 10 supporters and no opponents. 

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

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