Donald Trump’s Labor Department hid evidence that a proposed rule allowing employers to steal their workers’ tips would mean bosses keeping workers’ money. From the moment the Labor Department proposed the rule, worker advocates have said that the effect would be to transfer tips from workers to bosses, but the official Trump administration line was that the tip money would go to back-of-house workers to make their pay more equal to tipped workers, rather than being kept by the boss. But, Bloomberg News reports, the Labor Department was suppressing an analysis that showed exactly what worker advocates said all along:
Senior department political officials, after viewing an annual projection that billions of dollars in tips could transfer to businesses as a result of the proposal, ordered staff to revise the data methodology to lessen the expected impact, several of the sources said. Successive calculations showed progressively reduced values, but Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and his team are said to have still been uncomfortable with including the data in the eventual proposal. The officials disagreed with assumptions in the analysis that employers would retain their employees’ gratuities, rather than redistribute the money to other hourly workers. They wound up receiving approval from the White House to publish a proposal Dec. 5 that removed the economic transfer data altogether, the sources said.
Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute pointed out the missing impact data back in December. She now says in a statement that:
Thanks to excellent reporting, we now know that DOL did produce an estimate, which showed that the rule would be terrible for workers, shifting billions of dollars from workers to employers—so they scrubbed it. In so doing, they ensured that workers, advocates, and anyone else who wants to comment on the proposal would have to do so without key information about the impact of the rule.
This shows the lengths to which the Trump administration and Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta will go to hide the fact that they are taking steps to actively make workers’ lives worse.
The EPI’s estimate was that tipped workers would lose $5.8 billion to their bosses. We still don’t know exactly how much the Labor Department estimated that would be, since they haven’t released the analysis they previously denied even having done.
Shierholz, as well as Christine Owens of the National Employment Law Project, is calling on the Labor Department to withdraw the tip-stealing proposal.