Washington — After months of submitting public comments from workers, employers and consumers, conducting protests in front of Department of Labor buildings, and obtaining press coverage on the issue, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) celebrates Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta’s apparent reversal of position on tip ownership.
Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta had previously proposed a new rule that would permit restaurant owners to pocket the tips of millions of restaurant and service workers — a glaring example of a legal form of wage theft. ROC United mobilized restaurant workers across the country, and worked with partners and allies to take action, including submitting over 350,000 comments in opposition to the proposed rule, testifying on Capitol Hill and rallying at local Department of Labor and National Restaurant Association offices across the country.
Facing bipartisan pressure and overwhelming public disapproval, Acosta eventually agreed to work with both sides of the aisle to support the TIP Act.
In a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing March 12, Congress members Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Katherine Clark (D-MA) pressed DOL Secretary Alexander Acosta on the recent DOL tip rule proposal, which would allow employers to legally pocket gratuities earned by workers, provided those workers are paid the federal minimum wage, which has been frozen at a meager $2.13 an hour for tipped workers since 1992.
70% OF TIPPED WORKERS ARE WOMEN
Seventy percent of tipped workers are women who struggle with the highest rates of sexual harassment in order to feed their families in tips. On top of dealing with this two-tiered wage system and consequent sexual harassment, the new proposed rule would allow corporations to steal more than $5.8 billion in workers’ tips, according a recent study done by the Economic Policy Institute.
Presented with an unfavorable internal analysis of the proposed rule, the DOL was reported to have purposely shielded the public from the economic impact.
WORKERS STAND IN OPPOSITION
Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and president of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, said, “Trump’s Secretary of Labor has recognized the power of restaurant workers, employers and consumers standing united across the country against the most egregious attempt at tip theft. We thank Congress members DeLauro and Clark for protecting tipped workers with their new proposed legislation
“Tipped restaurant workers suffer from disproportionately high rates of poverty and face the worst sexual harassment of any industry in the U.S, largely due to the subminimum wage for tipped workers that forces a mostly female workforce to tolerate inappropriate customer behavior to feed their families in tips,” Jayaraman said.
“The Trump administration’s proposed rule would allow employers to take their workers’ tips, pushing workers who rely on tips for their income further into poverty, instability, and abusive working conditions, and exacerbating the already highest rates of sexual harassment in the industry,” Jayaraman said. “With the TIP Act, workers would be partially protected from this tip theft.”
ONE FAIR WAGE
“In order to truly protect workers, particularly in this #metoo moment, as we fight to pass the TIP Act, Congress must also support the Raise the Wage Act (HR 15), which calls for One Fair Wage — the elimination of the sub-minimum wage for tipped professionals. In states where One Fair Wage has been implemented, the restaurant industry is thriving, restaurant workers are earning better wages and better tips, and the rate of sexual harassment is half that of states that have a subminimum wage system.”