Monday, September 27, 2010

Does the tip you leave actually get to your waiter?

    Do you leave your waiter or waitress their tips on a credit card? If you do, they might not be getting all of them - or even any of them.

    On Friday, I was able to be part of a wonderfully high-spirited protest in New Orleans against Tony Moran's Restaurant. I was there speaking to the National Lawyers Guild about the importance of workers' centers and unions to protect workers' rights. We were protesting at Tony Moran's because of the restaurant's wage theft. When customers leave server's tips on their credit cards, the restaurant is taking 20% of the tip as a service fee, according to the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC)

   And the wage theft doesn't stop there, Labor Notes reports. The owner has two restaurants that are in the same building. Workers are given two employee identification numbers. When they are close to reaching overtime hours using one identification number, they are switched to the other number so the owner won't have to pay overtime.

     At WIN, we've seen that wage theft in the restaurant industry is all too common, both in the Memphis area, and across the country. Some restaurants don't give servers any of the tips that are left on a credit card. Some, like El Patron in Southaven, MS, haven't paid their wait staff the $2.13 an hour base wage that is required by federal law. 

So what can you do to reduce wage theft in Memphis restaurants?

1. Always tip your server in cash, even if you pay the rest of your bill by credit card. To be extra safe, hand the tip directly to the server instead of leaving it on the table, where a supervisor might pocket it.

2. Remember to be generous and fair when you tip. The law requires restaurants to pay servers the minimum wage if their tips and the $2.13 an hour base wage don't add up to $7.25 an hour for each shift. But plenty of places don't do this, or do it inconsistently.

3. When WIN sends you an action alert about wage theft, show up to picket with us, or send that email to the restaurant owner. What is most likely to stop wage theft in restaurants is owners knowing their customers aren't happy with the practice and will stop eating there if they continue to steal wages.

    Lots of you out there have worked in restaurants in the past or are working there now. What kinds of wage theft are you seeing? What's your advice for customers who want to do the right thing when they eat out?

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