Beware Valentine’s Day suitors bearing phony “$2.13” claims

Mike Paranzino Editor,
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Tomorrow, on February 13, millions of Americans will be focused on finding the perfect gift — or any last-minute gift — for their loved ones on Valentine’s Day.  A few others will be peddling a false narrative to advance Big Labor’s political agenda.

The Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), a labor union front group organized as a nonprofit “worker center,” uses February 13 every year to perpetuate its myth that tipped workers in America are making $2.13 an hour. It’s part of their campaign to demonize restaurants, with the ultimate goal of filling union coffers.

This myth is false, and ROC knows it. Federal law recognizes that tips are an important source of income for tipped workers — it’s one of the reasons server jobs are so popular. So federal law includes a tip credit in minimum wage calculations: If a worker’s tipped wage plus tips do not equal the full minimum wage, then the employer must make up the difference.

In practice, the earnings of most tipped workers exceed the minimum wage, making this point moot. Census data shows the average tipped restaurant worker earns about $14 per hour.

The $2.13 canard is about authentic as those pharmacy roses some suitors will try to pass off this week as a carefully selected gift. (Hint: she knows.)

But the “poverty wages” mantra serves the labor movement that created ROC and is supporting it and other nonprofit “worker centers” around the country. With union membership at 80-year lows (just 7 percent of private sector workers choose to be in a union), Big Labor needs big new targets for unionization, and with many collective bargaining agreements pegged to the minimum wage, a hike in the minimum wage can mean a hike in union dues.

With labor’s reputation in tatters, new front groups were needed to advance labor’s goals. Enter worker centers, the proverbial lipstick on the pig.

ROC, a pioneer in the “worker center” strategy, portrays itself as a champion of the working class, but its record is one of unpaid workers, bully tactics, and a failed restaurant of its own.

ROC’s Manhattan restaurant, Colors, was intended to showcase for the world what happens when a restaurant fully embraces the union agenda. The results have been all too telling. Colors has been a consistent money-loser, is closed to the public for long stretches of time, and according to New York City health authorities, has had rodents as some of its best customers.

ROC has even been sued by its own workers, who said “ROC itself is guilty of those very abuses” it hurls at successful restaurants. But that doesn’t deter ROC from its shakedown tactics, which include bullhorns and a giant, inflatable cockroach brought to disrupt the dinner hour at restaurants being targeted by the Center.

ROC’s conduct is so beyond the pale that a New York judge issued a restraining order against it, and restaurant workers have staged spontaneous counter-protests against ROC to make clear that ROC does not speak for them.

It’s no accident that the Center chooses for its protests high-traffic days like Valentine’s Day to bring maximum discomfort to customers and workers alike. ROC is the “stalker” that refuses to accept that restaurant workers just don’t like them in that way.

The real “subminimum wage” (to borrow another phrase from ROC’s arsenal that is high in emotional punch, low in veracity) is $0.00. That’s the income of someone who loses a job, or can’t find a job, thanks to job-crushing mandates pushed by Big Labor and their political allies.

With the unemployment rate for those with high school diplomas or less still twice the rate faced by college graduates, the last thing these folks need are additional impediments to economic growth and hiring. That truth is likely to be absent from a minimum wage Senate hearing scheduled for, you guessed it, 2/13 in Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin’s HELP Committee.

ROC’s agenda is about as welcome as being handed a Valentine’s Day card addressed to your partner’s ex. No wonder workers continue to turn away from union membership.

Mike Paranzino is communications director for ROC Exposed, a consumer watchdog concerned about ROC’s campaigns against America’s restaurants.