News & Commentary

March 21, 2018

Bloomberg Law reports that congressional lawmakers are negotiating a funding bill for the government that would include a provision to calm controversy surrounding a proposed Department of Labor rule about pooling tips. The proposed DOL rule would reverse an Obama-era regulation stating that tips are the property of employees who earn them and cannot be distributed to other workers. The new rule would allow employers to require servers and other tip-earners to share tips with non-tip-earners, like kitchen staff. According to Bloomberg Law, lawmakers are considering language that would allow employers to mandate tip-pooling arrangements but ban management from participating in them. Even with the ban on management participation, some are critical of the idea: Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) is concerned that businesses will use tip-pooling to lower wages for “back-of-house workers.”

Relatedly, Bloomberg Law reports that DOL leadership convinced OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to release the tip-sharing rule without accompanying data showing that the rule could allow businesses to skim $640 million in tips; that number had originally been “billions of dollars.” Trump-appointed OIRA Administrator Neomi Rao objected to the release of the rule, preferring to include estimates showing how much workers could lose in tips to management. “It’s pretty apparent that in this case and potentially others, that the administration and OMB are willing to manipulate the cost-benefit numbers to make them look good for their attempts to roll back regulatory protections,” Amit Narang of Public Citizen told Bloomberg Law. “This is a transparency concern, a legal concern, and I think it’s got to be a concern for the legitimacy and the integrity of the deregulatory agenda writ large.”

On Tuesday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern about reports that female workers and labor activists were subjected to “intimidation and harassment” after speaking out about working conditions at Samsung’s manufacturing plants in Vietnam. The Financial Times reports that the UN’s concern is embarrassing for Samsung and sensitive for Vietnam, which is a growing hub for low-cost manufacturing.

In today’s Washington Post, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, assistant professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, describes his new book Politics at Work: How Companies Turn Their Workers Into Lobbyists. In the book, he examines employers’ efforts to rally workers in favor of policies and candidates that their companies support.

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