Trump Labor Dept. clears way for theft of workers’ tips

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TIPPED WORKERS WILL LOSE under a rule change proposed by the Trump administration’s Department of Labor which would let managers of tipped workers grab the workers’ tips. – Ted S. Warren/AP photo

Washington (PAI) — The Trump administration’s Department of Labor (DOL) has unleashed yet another anti-worker move, aimed squarely at those who make the least: workers who survive on tips.

And the union-backed Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) is sounding the alarm.

“This rule is just another attempt to keep workers’ wages low and let customers make up the difference,” ROC, a nationwide advocate for the low-paid workers, says.

On Dec. 5, DOL asked for comments on lifting labor law “restrictions on employers that pay a direct cash wage” to tipped workers if those firms also “do not claim a tip credit against their minimum wage obligations.” The comment deadline is Jan. 4.

STEALING WORKERS’ TIPS

In plain English, ROC says, that means DOL would let managers of tipped workers grab the workers’ tips. The Obama administration Labor Department imposed the restrictions.

“Don’t let Trump and the National Restaurant Association steal workers’ tips!” ROC warns. It is urging workers and others to send comments to DOL, with their own stories of being shorted, and “demand they halt this rule right now.”

Otherwise, tips would become “property of restaurant owners rather than workers.”

‘TIME IS RUNNING OUT’

“Time is running out. They want to sneak this rule through without hearing from workers,customers, or even employers who disagree,” ROC says.

“This process is undemocratic and underhanded. They’ve opened the shortest-ever comment period in the history of the department, during the busiest time of year for restaurant workers. We only have until Jan. 4 to let the DOL know we won’t let them take workers’ tips without a fight,” ROC says.

TELL DOL ‘LOUD AND CLEAR’

Tell DOL “loud and clear” not to let the National Restaurant Association “steal workers’ tips” because “tips belong to workers who earn them,” ROC says.

Unfortunately, that’s often not even the case now.

When tips are pooled, tipped workers – servers, hotel bell employees, airline curbside baggage handlers, cab drivers and others – often see bosses steal part of their tips anyway. The practice costs tipped workers, whose federal minimum wage rate is $2.13 an hour, billions of dollars they can ill afford to lose.

DOL’S AWFUL ARGUMENT

Federal law “permits employers to credit at least some of the tips that a tipped employee receives toward their minimum wage” – the regular minimum of $7.25 hourly, DOL’s notice says.

But “an employer may claim a ‘tip credit’ toward its minimum wage obligation on account of tips received by a tipped employee equal to the difference between the cash wages it pays” – the $2.13 – and the regular minimum wage. “Employers electing to use the FLSA tip credit provision must ensure tipped employees receive at least the minimum wage when direct (or cash) wages and the tip credit amount are combined,” DOL added.

“The proposal would rescind the regulatory restrictions on employers that pay a direct cash wage of at least the full federal minimum wage and do not take a FLSA tip credit.”

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