Trump’s Department of Labor suppresses an inconvenient fact re their tip-retention proposal.

February 1st, 2018 at 2:43 pm

[These are the comments I made on a press call just now about the revelations from this article by Ben Penn. He tells of how the Labor Dept. is denying the public access to its estimates regarding the costs to tipped workers of the Trump admin’s proposed rule to let employers take the tips of minimum wage workers. Heidi Shierholz was also on the call–I recently interviewed her on this issue.]

I’ve developed an awfully high outrage bar over the past year, but this Dept. of Labor suppression of evidence incident clears it by a mile, for at least 3 reasons.

First, consider what this rule change goes after: The tips of minimum wage workers. I know of none–not one—bit of evidence that the fact the waitpersons get tips is an economic problem in America. To the contrary, tips are one way low-wage workers in tipped industries, many of whom these days are family breadwinners, meet their family budgets while holding minimum-wage jobs.

So, let’s be clear. The Trump Labor Dept is doing the bidding of the Nat’l Rest Assoc, not low-wage workers. And trust me, we’ve already got a whole administration and Congressional majority that’s tilted against working people. We don’t need the DoL, an agency that is supposed to represent workers’ needs, to pile on.

Second, while this rule is wholly unnecessary—tip-pooling arrangements are, of course, common—it would have been perfectly easy to write it in such a way as to prohibit employers from pocketing the tips. But the pen of the DoL was guided by the hand of the restaurant lobby, such that if this rule takes effect, employers will be able to legally pocket workers tips.

Finally, let’s also be clear about what happened here. The DoL’s analytic staff did what it always does in these situations—based on its best knowledge of the industry and the affected workers, it estimated the transfer costs of the rule. Then, as we understand it, political appointees didn’t like the answer so they instructed the analysts to knock it down. They still didn’t like the answer—and I should point out here that it is still the case that no one outside the DoL knows that answer—and so they buried it.

We are thus left with are two disturbing realities of politics in the Trump administration: a behind the scenes attack on economically vulnerable workers, and a willingness to dispose of inconvenient facts. History is replete with governments driven by these sorts of motivations, but I assure you, they are not called democracies.

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4 comments in reply to "Trump’s Department of Labor suppresses an inconvenient fact re their tip-retention proposal."

  1. Smith says:

    A nice summary of wage stagnation, though it didn’t include employer theft, exempt employees, exploited immigrants, women getting less pay, surplus in college graduates

  2. Kevin Rica says:

    The reason employers can get away with this is that there are more people that desperately need restaurant jobs than there are jobs.

    Then the National Restaurant Association will claim that it needs more immigrants because Americans are not willing to do these jobs, and,

    We should not raise minimum wages because it will eliminate many entry level jobs that Americans depend on.

  3. Kevin Rica says:

    This doesn’t just cheat employees, it cheats customers. If you leave a tip, you believe that it goes direct to the people that helped you, not the restaurant owner. It is consumer fraud!

    Two things that need to be done. Ask your waiter or waitress – do you get this? If the answer is it goes into the tip pool – hand them cash!

    There should be an app for that. Someone needs to create an app that tells you whether tips go to management. That way you can either not tip or just hand it to your server!