Thieves in the suites

Workplace exploitation is at least as old as the industrial revolution. But rather than using whips to make the assembly lines move ever-faster, today’s corporate exploiters use technology, devious work schedules, and lobbyists to extract more work from employees – for less pay. Walmart, for example, wants to provide next-day delivery for online customers by having its low-wage workforce use their own time and vehicles to drop-off packages as they go home after work. Economists have a technical term for these corporate ploys: “Stealing.”

One entire group being victimized by corporate thieves are the 4.3 million Americans who make up our “tipped workforce.” Mostly employed as waitstaff in restaurants – from big chains like IHOP to the most-exclusive dining establishments – these workers fall under a grossly unjust category of labor law that allows their employers to pay a miserly minimum wage as low as $2.13 an hour! The rationale is that customers will subsidize this sub-poverty pay by leaving generous tips – a convenient corporate lie refuted by the fact the income of tipped workers is a third less than non-tipped and they are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty.

Luckily, Trump has intervened to help. Lucky for restaurant owners, that is. Bowing to demands by restaurant industry lobbyists, Trump’s labor department has proposed a new rule allowing employers to seize workers tips and use them for any purpose – including fattening their own profits. Paying $2.13 an hour already amounts to a massive wage theft, but this elevates it to legalized highway robbery!

Even the most notorious robbers in history would be too ashamed to pull a job this wicked. But today’s combination of corporate greed and Trump’s ethical bankruptcy is turning blatant wickedness into business as usual.

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Wal-Mart Asks Employees to Deliver Packages on Their Way Home,” Bloomberg, June 1 2017.

Twenty-Three Years and Still Waiting for Change,” Economic Policy Institute, July 10, 2014.

“Labor Department plan might let boss pocket tip,” Austin American Statesman, February 6, 2018.

“McDonald’s tech updates have some workers walking,” Bloomberg News, March 14, 2018.

A Fair Deal for Restaurant Servers,” The New York Times, March 13, 2018.

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