We’re very close to ending tip theft in Rhode Island!
Our legislation, HB5121 andSB574 (sponsored by Sen. Erin Lynch and Rep. Chris Blazejewski), has had hearings in both the House and the Senate Labor Committees. The bill will pass if it gets to a vote—we just need to get it out of committees! Check out the video and please sign our petition and call your state senator.
Renaissance Providence Hotel workersheld an action earlier this week to announce they were organized and demanding better working conditions, a voice on the job, and a fair union organizing process. In this video, Renaissance housekeeper and worker leader Santa Brito tells us why she’s fighting.
I quit from the Renaissance Providence Hotel about a year and a half ago. Working conditions were bad when I was there, but they’ve gotten even worse since a new management company, the Procaccianti Group, took over in December 2012. Now the workers are saying enough is enough.
On Monday night dozens of workers along with city councilors, state reps, and community allies marched into the hotel to demand respect, a voice on the job, and a fair unionization process. Check out the video from NBC.
This is only the beginning. There will continue to be actions and I’ll be posting several video testimonies from workers over next few weeks.
As part of our campaign to end tip theft, we’ll be posting a few testimonies from Rhode Island service workers who are regularly having their tips stolen. This one’s from Kate Chesney, a Newport, RI bartender who says her restaurants’ customers are being charged an automatic 20% service fee, but that she and her co-workers aren’t seeing a dime of that money.
I’m a part-time bartender at a hotel/restaurant in Newport, Rhode Island. I’ve worked in the industry for eight years while in school because the opportunity to make a good living is sometimes there. While working the bar I receive a measely $2.89/hr, plus tips. That means I’m almost totally dependent on customers’ generosity. Sometimes I do OKAY, but there is huge variability in my weekly earnings.
The work I do is very difficult. I’m on my feet sometimes up to 15 hours at a time while doing lots of heavy lifting. I have to ask permission to eat, use the restroom, take breaks or drink water. With this kind of work and with my level of experience, I expect and deserve to earn much more than the minimum wage. But I stick it out on the belief that my hard work can pay off.
Even though they are paying us such a low wage, the restaurant is also dipping into our gratuities.
Our anti-tip theft bill has been submitted in the Rhode Island House (HB5121) by Representative Chris Blazejewski and in the Senate (SB574) by Senator Erin Lynch. The legislation would prohibit owners, managers, and supervisors from keeping any portion of an employee’s tips, whether by directing demanding a cut of the tips or stealing through deceptive service charges, credit card fees, or by including themselves in tip pools.
We’re asking everyone to please SIGN OUR PETITION in support of the bill. Also please CALL YOUR LAWMAKERSand urge them to pass this law. Every signature and every call counts. The industry is lobbying against the bill so we need to make our voices heard.
Here are the facts:
•According to the 2011 Economic Policy Institute report “Waiting for Change,” tipped workers are more than twice as likely to be below the federal poverty line as the rest of the workforce. Waiters in particular are almost three times as likely to be below the poverty line.
•Rhode Island’s tipped workers often make as little as $2.89/hr in wages. The rest is supposed to be made up for with tips, but too often workers aren’t able to pocket all of their hard-earned tip money.
•Tip theft is a rampant problem in hotels, restaurants, banquet halls, casinos, and the rest of the service industry. Recent high profile court cases filed against Mario Batali’s restaurants, Hooters, and Yankee Stadium are not isolated incidents, but rather symptomatic of an injustice happening everyday in countless businesses.
•There is no federal law against tip theft. In theory the Department of Labor says all tips belong to employees, but in practice they only enforce the law if the tip stealing is putting the worker below minimum wage. So, if your boss let’s you keep enough to make $7.25/hr, there’s nothing you can do about it.
•Because it’s such a widespread problem that lacks federal regulation, many states and cities have stepped up to prohibit tip theft. New York, Massachusetts, California, and Utah are just a few of the states that have stepped up to pass legislation. Cities such as Long Beach and Philadelphia have also passed their own laws. Workers’ rights groups in San Antonio are currently pushing to pass an an act to cover their city.
•Rhode Island’s proposed legislation, HB5121 and SB574, is being widely supported by the state’s labor and activist community. UNITE HERE 217, RI Jobs with Justice, Ocean State Action, Fuerza Laboral, Olneyville Neighborhood Association, AFSC, Mark Gursky, and many more have signed on in support.
•Rhode Island’s law would target the four main types of tip theft:
1. It bans managers, owners, or supervisors from simply demanding a cut of workers’ tips, whether it be a percentage, a flat rate, or for an invented “fee” for “insurance costs” or other imaginary charges
2. It stops businesses from charging customers deceptive “service charges” or “administrative fees” that are partially or wholly absorbed by the business or by managerial employees. Customers believe such fees to be gratuities going to employees, and so don’t tip workers on top of them. Businesses would still be allowed to charge customers these fees but they would need to clearly label the charges as not being a tip.
3. It prohibits employers from charging workers fees when customers tip on credit cards. Credit card companies charge businesses a card processing fee, and businesses often pass that fee onto workers when the customer tips on a credit card. The bill would require that workers receive the full tip that customers write on the credit card tip line.
4. It ban managers, owners, and supervisors from including themselves in tip pools. It prohibits back-of-the-house workers—such as dishwashers and cooks—from being included in tip pools. This is to prevent managers from paying non-tipped workers lower wages then using servers’ tip money to compensate. Tip pooling would still be allowed, whether imposed by managers or created voluntarily by workers, so long as only customarily tipped employees are included in the pool.
•Some industry lobbyists want to water down the bill or create loopholes for certain kinds of businesses. We believe stealing workers tips is wrong no matter how or where it happens. We want the bill passed as it’s written.
•Please call your lawmakers and sign our petition to help us end tip theft in Rhode Island.
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Inspired by the success of the "Joey Quits" video and responses to it from other hotel workers, we created this site to collect stories about unjust working conditions in the hotel industry.
We hope you will contribute writing, photos, and videos that help the public understand your experiences.
Creamos un sitio de web para juntar cuentos sobre condiciones injustas en la industria hotelera. Nos inspiró el éxito del video "Joey Quits" y las respuestas que recibimos de otros trabajadores de hoteles. ¡Cuéntenos su historia!