Friday Feminist Fuck You: Trump Wants to Let Bosses Steal Workers’ Tips

The Trump Administration is getting into the holiday spirit by pushing a new regulation that would let restaurant owners steal workers’ tips, taking an estimated $5.8 billion out of minimum wage workers’ pockets.

Earlier this month, the Department of Labor released a proposed tip-stealing rule that would allow restaurants to mandate tipped workers, like restaurant servers or hotel bartenders, to share those earnings with non-tipped owners, like dish washers and cooks. Pooling tips allows restaurants to pay their “back of the house” employees less, potentially re-classifying these employees as tipped workers who can be legally paid less than minimum wage. That’s not even the worst part.

According to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, the tip-stealing rule would allow restaurant owners to confiscate the tips earned by waiters and waitresses, but it doesn’t include a requirement that employers distribute those pooled tips back to any of their employees. In other words, under the proposed rule, employers could distribute tips to kitchen staff — but they could also just pocket them.

This is nothing short of legalized wage theft.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. But waiters, nail salon workers, and other workers may get far less. The “tipped minimum wage” — which applies to workers who receive as little as $30 per month in tips — is only $2.13 per hour. In 43 states, employers can legally pay tipped workers less than minimum wage. Restaurant workers depend on their tips to make rent and feed their families; tipped workers are already almost twice as likely to live in poverty. The Administration’s proposed rule threatens what little economic security waitresses around the country have, taking the money they earn and redistributing it upwards into the pockets of wealthy owners.

If you’re reading this and thinking “Don’t worry — bosses won’t really steal their employees’ tips!” then boy, do I have some bad news for you. Wage theft is a massive problem in the restaurant industry: another EPI study found that employers skim billions from low-wage workers’ paychecks, stealing from millions of families every year.

Wage theft — and this rule — will inevitably hurt women the most. Women are the majority of low-wage workers and no less than two-thirds of tipped workers. The Trump Administration’s proposed rule could destroy their livelihoods, all while exacerbating the severe sexual harassment in the restaurant industry.

In recent weeks, reports surfaced that celebrity restaurants like Mario Batali and Ken Friedman have harassed and sexually assaulted their female staff for years, with impunity. Those stories just scratch the surface. Thirty-seven percent of all sexual harassment complaints made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involve restaurants; a 2014 study by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found that staggering 78 percent of female restaurant workers reported being sexually harassed on the job by management, co-workers, and, all-too-frequently, customers.

If getting tipped well is the difference between making rent and being homeless, a waitress can have no choice but to grin and bear it when a customer gropes her. Everyday, women in the service industry are forced to endure degrading, dehumanizing harassment just to stay economically afloat. Allowing employers to steal workers’ tips means they’ll be even more financially vulnerable, and even less able to walk away.

Donald Trump campaigned as a populist and Ivanka says that she’s standing up for working women. But neither of them could care less that waiters and waitresses are about to see their hard-earned tips stolen from them and given to highly-paid bosses and restaurant owners instead. They are literally stealing from poor women to give money to wealthy men.

Want to help stop this rule? Tell the Trump Administration you want your tips to go to the server who earned it by submitting a comment here.

This post was written by a young woman on our team. Help us pay her what she deserves: sign up to become a monthly Feministing member for $5. Photo credit: Mic.

Sejal Singh is a columnist at Feministing, where she writes about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice. Sejal is a Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for Know Your IX, a national campaign to end gender-based violence in schools, where she has led several state and federal campaigns for student survivors' civil rights. In the past, Sejal led LGBT rights campaigns for the Center for American Progress. Today, she is a student at Harvard Law School and a frequent speaker on LGBTQ rights and civil rights in schools.

Sejal Singh is a law student and columnist at Feministing, writing about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice.

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