By Sahid Fawaz
One of the worst proposals in recent memory for tipped employees just got shot down.
“After a number of decidedly anti-labor appointments to top positions in the Trump administration’s Department of Labor, it was clear that big business would be a major player in the department’s activities. Indeed, last December, with support from the National Restaurant Association, the department proposed a ‘tip pooling’ rule that would allow employers to control workers’ tips, including taking them for themselves.
But tipped workers yesterday gained a victory against what critics have more aptly termed the ‘tip stealing’ rule: a provision forbidding employers, including managers and supervisors, from stealing tips was included in the omnibus budget bill, with bipartisan support, including from Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. The provision would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to prohibit employers from pocketing employees’ tips. Tipped workers often earn less than minimum wage, relying on their tips to supplement their pay.
‘This landmark victory belongs to all the restaurant servers, bartenders, car wash workers, valets, attendants, and all the other tipped workers in America who fought back when the Trump administration proposed its misguided tip-stealing rule,’ Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, said in a statement.
Under the DOL’s proposed rule, employers would be allowed to ‘pool’ employees’ tips, ostensibly to share tipped workers’ wages with other staff—for example, a restaurant’s wait staff could be required to share their tips with back-of-the-house employees such as cooks. But there was no language prohibiting employers from keeping the tips.
The Economic Policy Institute estimated that under the proposed rule, workers would lose approximately $5.8 billion in tips to their employers. What’s more, the Labor Department appears to have reached similar conclusions: The department’s political appointees attempted to bury the DOL’s own research, which showed that workers would lose out under the rule.
But as tipped workers learned about the proposal, there was a huge backlash—and furious organizing against it. Indeed, many tipped workers and their allies, mobilized by the workers’ advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, submitted over 200,000 public comments on the rule and launched protests nationwide. Memorably, activists dropped a banner reading ‘Trump: Don’t Steal Our Tips!’ from the roof of the DOL building.”
For the rest of the article, visit The American Prospect.