Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm in North Carolina. Generally, a person tips for good service, and many of the folks who work for tips don’t even get minimum wage, so they rely on those tips to live. But what happens when a business withholds tips? It can be really challenging for workers, indeed, and is not all right. On this day of social justice, service, and reflection of Dr. King’s life and legacy, I think the action items listed below are excellent choices to start a discussion with someone about wage theft and how the wages workers make also affect both the workers themselves and are a reflection of society. The Nebraska Legislature will soon be having a variation on this discussion with a bill, LB943, to increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour over three years. Other bills this session that address challenges workers may face include increasing the earned income tax credit and the “Paid Family Medical Leave Act (LB955), which would protect employees from income losses caused by the need to take off time to care for newborns or other family members,” according to this article in the Lincoln Journal Star. This includes up to six weeks a year off for eligible employees covered by the federal Family Leave Act. I hope that today allows reflection about the importance of how Dr. King’s work advocating for workers and social justice continues. And, seriously, please remember to tip your servers if you have the luxury of eating out today.
Kim Bobo, the Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice and the author of “Wage Theft in America,” recently spoke at Duke Divinity School and then at N.C. Central University School of Law in Durham, N.C. Ms. Bobo, who was awarded the Pacem in Terris Peace Award in 2012 (other recipients are John F. Kennedy, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr.), has a simple reason for the work she does: as a person of faith, she recognizes injustice and seeks to correct it. Wage theft, which is defined as stealing from workers what they have rightfully earned, is not only illegal it is immoral. She is simply trying to get people to do something about it.
In September a $4 million settlement was announced by the Harvard Club of Boston for not paying tips to its staff.
At N.C Central law school, Bobo spoke to students about waiters not getting tips, even though the restaurant collected those tips when the bill was paid, and asked if anyone in the room had experienced that type of theft. Indeed, one student shared a story about working at an exclusive club in South Carolina where that practice was routine. After reporting the problem and getting nowhere, he finally gave up and quit. He is still bitter about it. In September, a $4 million settlement was announced by the Harvard Club of Boston for not paying tips to its staff. Small amounts can add up for the employer.
Bobo gave some action items to the audience that I wanted to share with you. She said we need to:
- start recognizing the seriousness of the problem;
- start getting attention about the problem in order to fix it;
- stay focused; and
- if necessary, cross of the lines of our comfort zone.
For more information about Interfaith Worker Justice, go to: www.iwj.org/
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