As if life weren't hard enough for the people who cook your food and bring your plate, this week the Trump administration took steps forward in making it legal for employers to steal their employees tips.
The move comes from the Department of Labor, which released a proposed rule that would end regulations on “tip pooling." In theory, the rule mean that employers can pool the tips servers and bartenders receive and share them with untipped employees like cooks, dishwashers, busers, etc. HOWEVER, under this rule, employers wouldn't actually have to distribute those tips as long as their employees make minimum wage. And minimum wage, in over 20 states, is just $7.25 an hour, or roughly the cost of half a hamburger in Seattle. According to economists, employers already steal over $15 billion a year from workers, and this rule promises not just to make that worse, but to make it legal.
“The proposal would help decrease wage disparities between tipped and non-tipped workers,” the Labor Department said in a statement Monday. But, “Tips belong to the workers who have earned them, period,” National Employment Law Project Executive Director Christine Owens told the Wall Street Journal. “If companies have trouble retaining non-tipped workers because their pay is so bad, then the solution is for the companies to raise their wages, not to essentially steal what tipped workers take home at the end of the day.”
According to Heidi Shierholz, Senior Economist and Director of Policy of the Economic Policy Institute, the proposed rule will clearly harm workers, and the DOL knows it:
It is worth noting how deeply unusual it is that there are no actual estimates in the proposal of the amount of money that would be shifted from workers to employers as a result of the rule, even though data that researchers use all the time are available to produce them. The requirements that agencies must follow during the rulemaking process are very clear, and among them is that agencies must assess all quantifiable costs and benefits “to the fullest extent that these can be usefully estimated.” When there is uncertainty about a quantifiable cost or benefit, agencies typically do something like provide a range—they don’t forgo providing an estimate altogether. It is obvious why the department left out the required estimate: this rule is bad for workers, and any estimate would have made that crystal clear.
There is a 30-day public comment period. You know what to do.