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The Union War on Tips
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The Union War on Tips

“Ultimately, this system of tipping needs to go.”

Here’s a hot tip: if you work for tips for a living, the union bosses are coming for you.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Big Labor is having a bad year.

The United Automobile Workers lost big in their organizing drive at the Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where workers said “no" to the warm embrace of union organizers. They then turned around and boosted union dues by 25 percent to replenish their strike fund, after having depleted it on these labor-organizing misadventures.

The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to declare unconstitutional the president’s Big Labor-friendly “recess” appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, and possibly end the practice of treating Medicaid-reimbursed home health care workers as if they were state employees - hence union members.

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak) (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

But never ones to give up easy, union bosses have a new target in their sights: tip income. Leading the charge is a worker center, or labor front group, called the Restaurant Opportunity Center. Note the ironic use of the word “Opportunity.”

Saru Jayaraman, co-director of the group, apparently believes that gratuities cross the line of pay for performance and wants nothing to do with that. She told the University of California, Berkley’s alumni magazine, “Ultimately, this system of tipping needs to go.”

The Seattle Times reported that she “described tips as institutionalized sexism” and then to make her views perfectly clear added “the best option, she suggests, is to eliminate tips.”

Seattle has been ground zero in the ROC’s battle to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. Leading the charge on the city council is socialist party Councilmember Kshama Sawant. She, too, has it out for tip income, saying, “We don’t want any worker to be beholden to the mood of the customer on any given day.” Well then.

What the union bosses won’t admit, however, is that they have failed again and again in their attempts to organize waiters and waitresses into unions. And where they have succeeded in unionizing hospitality workplaces, they are frustrated that they are unable to collect union dues on the tips the employees put in their pockets.

Of course you knew this was going to be about union dues, right?

For virtually all tipped workers, the tips far outweigh the wages they receive, so an attempt by union bosses to abolish tips would be economically devastating to millions of service employees, but good for Big Labor. Those employees are used to providing excellent service to their customers and don’t actually mind being “beholden” to the mood of customers when they’re taking home hundreds of dollars of tips.

In this photo taken, Aug. 1, 2013, demonstrators protesting what they say are low wages and improper treatment for fast-food workers march in downtown Seattle.  (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File) In this photo taken, Aug. 1, 2013, demonstrators protesting what they say are low wages and improper treatment for fast-food workers march in downtown Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

This is only example number 500 of how labor bosses actually care little for the financial situation of working people, but care a lot about the financial situation of the unions themselves. It’s hard to believe that these labor heads could be so cynical as to want to take away this huge source of income for millions of people just because they can’t collect their cut of it in the form of union dues.

Believe it.

Unions are in a financial and demographic death spiral. That’s why they are so desperate to unionize foreign automakers, fast food restaurants, home health care workers, or retail workers despite the fact that they have no interest in forking over a piece of their paycheck to labor. Without massively increasing union membership, they’ll run out of the stream of revenue they use to buy political power.

Unions are lavishly funding these so-called worker center front groups like ROC and Fast Food Forward in the restaurant industry, and groups like OurWalmart, targeting Walmart and other retailers. They stage noisy protests and demonstrations, pretend to stage strikes and walkouts, chant slogans demanding a $15 per hour minimum wage with bussed-in rent-a-protestors who don’t work for any of the companies subject to the protests.

[sharequote align="center"]Big Labor's real agenda isn’t the minimum wage; it’s minimum dues. [/sharequote]


But their real agenda isn’t the minimum wage; it’s minimum dues. They’re trying to bully employers into surrendering to unionization by attacking their corporate reputation and using intimidation tactics to get their way.

These groups might be getting an assist from President Barack Obama’s pro-union NLRB. The board has been breaking one historical precedent after another, and may be poised to break a big one.

As you probably know, most fast food restaurants aren’t owned by the worldwide company with the name on the sign.

They’re owned by franchisees, small business owners who have one or more locations in their area. That’s one reason why it’s been difficult for unions to get traction in the fast food space. It is tough for them to stage literally thousands of separate union organizing drives, one franchise at a time.

But the NLRB might grease the skids for the unions one more time. The Board is reportedly considering changing the rules surrounding union organizing to deem all the employees of a restaurant chain to be part of the same company, making union organizing vastly easier.

Unions and their front groups, with a helping hand from the NLRB, seek nothing less than to entirely remake the restaurant industry, sweeping millions of employees into their ranks, while also eliminating tips for workers. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

This tip costs nothing, but unheeded, could cost workers big.

Fred Wszolek is a spokesperson for the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI)

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