Workplace exploitation has been around from the beginning. 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 wait staff 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 workers. And tipped workers 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. Thankfully, a Democratic provision slipped into an omnibus spending bill may have stopped it for now.
Still, today’s combination of corporate greed and Trump’s ethical bankruptcy is turning blatant wickedness into business as usual.
Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.