What status mechanisms underlie actors’ public narratives to mobilize change? This study examines the public narratives of a set of United States restaurant actors (2005–2016) that tried to eliminate tipping, a change which challenged a deeply ingrained social custom, took some power away from customers, and could potentially reduce servers’ income. Through a qualitative analysis of the narratives using a status lens, I reveal actors’ complex discursive status work to frame the elimination of tipping as a change that promotes compensation fairness, the professionalization of service work, cultural authenticity, and equality. This study delineates the recursive relationship between narrative and status: actors’ narratives are enabled by a rich repertoire of status hierarchies; narratives may also drive status in the sense that by organizing loose elements into coherent stories about status distinction or status problematization, narratives provide motivations for a change that may reinforce or challenge existing status hierarchies. I conclude by discussing this study’s implications for the literature on status, narrative, change, and legitimation.
- eliminating tipping
- restaurant work