Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC ) United has released a new report, “Our Tips Belong To Us: Overcoming the National Restaurant Association’s Attempt to Steal Workers’ Tips, Perpetuate Sexual Harassment, and Maintain Racial Exploitation,” detailing the efforts of the Trump Administration’s Department of Labor (DOL), based on lobbying by the National Restaurant Association (NRA), to advance federal regulation that would make tips the property of employers rather than workers. The proposed regulation, which has been submitted to the White House for review, would overturn decades of federal and state law and precedent in order to gain control and ownership over workers’ tips. ROC United is also launching a campaign to mobilize workers, employers and consumers to contact Secretary Acosta to stop this proposal’s advancement immediately.
The DOL’s proposal would exacerbate an epidemic of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. In fact, restaurant workers are the largest source of harassment complaints to the EEOC, and a survey conducted by ROC United and Race Forward found that 90% of respondents reported experiencing sexual harassment. The DOL’s new regulation will force a majority-female workforce, already forced to tolerate extreme harassment in order to feed their families through customer tips, into further poverty, economic instability, and vulnerability to sexual harassment and assault.
The DOL’s plans also perpetuate the NRA’s history of racial exploitation of tipped workers that spans from Emancipation, when employers relied on the practice of tipping to avoid paying former slaves a fair wage. Additionally, this new regulation allows President Donald Trump, the owner of multiple businesses that employ tipped workers, to keep and profit from his employees’ tips.
The DOL must reiterate the principle that workers own their tips. Additionally, the industry must adopt One Fair Wage with a minimum wage that continues to rise at both the federal and the state level. With One Fair Wage in place, workers will have the financial stability necessary to provide for their families, plan for their futures, and advocate for themselves against sexual harassment and assault.
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