Taking Tips From Servers? Oh, Hell No.


Do you tip your waitress? What about the person in back who cleans the dishes? It’s no secret that for many Americans in food service and other similar industries, tips make up a substantial portion of their income.

In countries with wage structures different from the USA, these workers would enjoy a higher base pay because tipping is not part of the culture. Here, however, employers are not expected to pay tipped workers at the same rate as people in non-tipped roles. Now, a new Trump-administration proposal would force waitstaff to spread tip monies even thinner.

What the hell is next, Mr. Trump?


Sharing the Take

Under the new rule, which was proposed in early December, employees like servers and bartenders would be required to share tips evenly with whatever non-tipped employees the business owner chooses.

If it sounds like a welcome perk for the dishwashing staff at first, you may want to take a second look at how this actually gets implemented in the workplace. In 43 states, employers are allowed to pay their people well below minimum wage if they receive more than $30 in tips per month.

Conventional minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, but tipped minimum wage is only $2.13 per hour. The result of this law change is that business owners will withhold up to $5.8 billion in wages by reducing pay for workers that were considered non-tipped before.


From Bad to Worse

If this change is made, it could have the effect of plummeting billions of workers below the poverty line.

Supporting a family on minimum wage is already a near impossibility without the help of programs the Trump administration has squarely in its crosshairs. By declaring these people tipped workers, business owners would not only be reducing their wages by using pooled tip money as a substitute for a paltry minimum wage, but it would also be making life much more difficult for the workers who used to receive the tips.  

Put simply, enacting this change would trigger a domino effect that would result in diminished working conditions for service roles that receive tips and encourage business owners to hire the cheapest help they can find.


How Will This Affect Women?

The change Trump’s greedy cronies are suggesting comes at a particularly critical time, as women are speaking out against sexual harassment in the workplace. That fact takes on particular importance when you consider that the majority of low-wage workers in the United States are women, and that number increases when you factor minority races into the equation.

Under current wage laws, working as a server or bartender is one of the only professions an uneducated or minimally educated person can do to support a family. The reason this is feasible is that people in these roles can collect enough tips to transform their base pay into a livable wage.

How do conditions for these workers change when the obligation to pay previously untipped workers a decent wage is removed and replaced with tip money? Servers in other traditionally tipped roles now have to fight for every scrap of a tip, work longer hours and potentially put themselves in denigrating situations.

With a sizeable chunk of income from tips being rerouted to other workers, a server has to endure whatever treatment unruly patrons will throw at them in hopes it will result in a good tip. It doesn’t take much imagination — or life experience — to know what that could mean for waitresses, female bartenders and other roles where women are regularly subjected to poor treatment under the guise of service.

If you think it’s not a problem, think again. Investigations have revealed immense problems in the restaurant industry, with almost 80 percent of female employees suffering instances of sexual harassment by someone in management.

For a president who ran on a blue-collar platform, President Trump has completely thrown working-class citizens like those who occupy these jobs under the proverbial bus. Anyone who has ever worked in food service or a low-wage tipped profession should be appalled at the administration's willingness to undermine a bedrock occupation the elite regularly patronize.

As someone who has worked in the food service industry regularly for years, this disgusting attack on both blue-collar work and women in particular hits home for me, as I’m sure it does for many other young female workers just trying to earn a living, whatever it may take.

But am I surprised? Not in the slightest.


Article by Kate Harveston, Journalist and Freelance Writer

Blog: Only Slightly Biased

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