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The Trump Administration Is Going After Vulnerable Restaurant Workers

Stealing tips is about to become the law of the land thanks to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump and his cruel administration continue to wreak havoc on American families and workers across the nation with policies that seem designed explicitly to devastate the working poor and middle class. The latest victims of these callous policies are restaurant workers.

As the Huffington post reports, the Labor Department, with the support of the National Restaurant Association, are trying to roll back an Obama regulation that stops restaurants from taking workers tips - with the goal of re-appropriating tips to the front of the house and bar staff as it pleases. The idea of a “tipping pool” has been around for a long time and some restaurants engage in it. However, this proposal is different because it would include cooks and dishwashers and give restaurant owners and general managers greater control of the tips and distribution. 

Because of this new wrinkle, the proposal would be disastrous for Waiters/Server staff across the country, a fact Bloomberg reports the Trump administration is trying very hard to conceal: 

Labor Department leadership scrubbed an unfavorable internal analysis from a new tip pooling proposal, shielding the public from estimates that showed employees could lose out on billions of dollars in gratuities, four current and former DOL sources tell Bloomberg Law.

The agency shelved the economic analysis, compiled by DOL staff, from a December proposal to scrap an Obama administration rule. The proposal would permit tip pooling arrangements that involve restaurant servers and other workers who make tips and back-of-the-house workers who don’t. It sparked outrage from worker advocates who said the move would permit management to essentially skim gratuities by participating in the pools themselves.

Senior department political officials—faced with a government analysis showing that workers could lose billions of dollars in tips as a result of the proposal—ordered staff to revise the data methodology to lessen the expected impact, several of the sources said.

Waiters should not bear the responsibility of paying the wages of dishwashers and cooks. That responsibility should solely rest on the restaurant owner. It’s unfair and it reeks of a naked power grab by businesses to exploit American workers with governmental approval. There is even a bigger concern lurking under this proposal, and that is the prospect of restaurants blatantly stealing the money for themselves. Heidi Shierholz, former Economist under Obama and now senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute points out the new law would allow restaurant owners to pocket all the tips if they wanted to, as long as the tipped workers earn minimum wage. The livelihood of millions of Americans based on the honesty of a restaurant owner or general manager in a profession that sees 60% of restaurants closing within the first year of opening and 80% closed within five years, is a frightening proposition.

Anecdotally, I know firsthand the daily grind of being in the restaurant business as a waiter and its impact on my livelihood. For two years, I had to pay my apartment rent, transportation costs, and keep food in the refrigerator based on restaurant patrons adhering to the 15 to 20% tipping rule and others tipping what they can. I hustled for extra shifts and looked forward to Friday and Saturday nights because those were the big money nights. I did my best to be an excellent server because by doing so, more money was generated for myself and the restaurant. I tipped out the standard 10% to the bus boys and bartender and the rest was mine. The $2.74 an hour that the restaurant paid me was an afterthought. It was all about the tips.

It is already a humbling experience having to live off the generosity of others. But at least you can directly see the fruits of your labor at the end of the night. This new regulation would have a profound impact on the livelihood of waiters, their families and ability to be self-sustaining.

Thankfully, there has been some pushback. Huffington Post also reported the worker advocacy group, Restaurant Opportunities Center, has asked their members to express their resistance through public comments and a letter written by 24 Senate Democrats was sent to Labor Secretary Alex Acosta expressing their concern. However, it may not be enough. As of right now, the plan is to move forward.

Donald Trump and his administration’s latest decision will further weaken and destabilize our economy by attacking the wages of vulnerable restaurant workers. Their lives hang in the balance, but Trump doesn’t care about those Americans. He loves McDonald’s, no tip necessary.

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