That Spending Bill The House Just Passed Would Protect Workers’ Hard-Earned Tips

Here’s a tip: don’t take advantage of tipped workers.

MarketWatch reports that tucked into the sprawling 1.3-trillion dollar omnibus spending bill the House just passed is a provision that will ensure that workers can keep their tips. You wouldn’t think that would be necessary, and so, wouldn’t expect it to be news-worthy, but it’s a brave new world.

Remember that back in December Trump’s Department of Labor proposed nullifying an Obama-era prohibition on employers pooling tips to ostensibly share them with non-tipped workers. The obvious danger here is that once pooled, the tips wouldn’t have to be shared with anyone, and business owners would go home each night with pockets full of crumpled bills and loose change that were meant for the servers (whom, as tipped workers, earn a lower hourly wage than non-tipped workers) who earned them.

This possibility didn’t trouble the Department of Labor, but it deeply troubled restaurant workers. In fact, MarketWatch tells us that “Some 350,000 restaurant workers and other interested parties submitted public comments opposing the Trump administration proposal and testified on Capitol Hill.”

Just last month, three Congressional Democrats called on the Trump administration to withdraw the proposal. Yes, because it would hurt workers who rely on their tips to survive (let’s not kid ourselves that they help them “thrive…” surviving is the name of the game in the middle class of 2018), but also maaaaaaaaaybe because the Department of Labor kinda’, sorta’ didn’t make public (read: “hid”) the results of an economic analysis that determined pooling tips could cost workers billions of dollars.

Those calls fell on deaf, orange ears.

So, the tip-saving provision. Its language was negotiated by Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Republican-controlled Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. and Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta. As part of part of an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (a rider to the spending bill), it keeps employers from keeping pooled tips, or giving them to managers. But wait! There’s more! It also gives workers the right to sue if their tips are stolen, and authorizes the Labor Department to seek civil penalties for tip theft. That’s what a sage once called “Winning!”

As the wealth inequality grows, and wages lie stagnant; as we watch Trump and his GOP cronies greedily grab at every opportunity to roll back Obama’s legislative advances and further-enrich the plenty-rich-enough-already, it’s heartening to see that at least in this instance our elected representatives actually listened to the people, and acted in their best interest. It’s heartening… it’s just too bad it’s astonishing too.