Blogging mostly about mundane stuff like, immigration, Workers' Compensation and other immigrant related activities.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What do Starbucks Baristas have in common with Undocumented Workers?

Ever tipped a Barista, a -coffee-maker- at Starbucks? How about you waiter at your local Mexican restaurant? or a Car Wash Attendant? Sure, most of us have, but few of us ever considered if that tip would have to be shared.

Starbuck's baristas have for sometime shared their tips with their managers and that practice eventually led to a class action suit initiatedin 2004 by former Starbucks barista, Jou Chou. Undocumented workers don't have access to the same legal remedies afforded to Starbucks Barristas.

Starbuck baristas were handed a $100 Million Dollar victory today by San Diego Judge, Patricia Cowett, who said the baristas were entitled to $86m in back tips, plus interest. The decision by Judge Cowett faces a likely appeal from Starbucks, but even if Starbucks prevails the PR from this story does not bode well for their image.

Unfortunately undocumented workers have few rights, much less the ability to bring about a similar class action suit. The difference in status between baristas and undocumented workers highlights how our society continues to allow the rise of separate worker classes, workers with rights and those without any.

As a Workers' Compensation consultant my experience is that many service sector employers commonly use the tactic of taking a portion of the tips generated by their employees. When asked about the practice most employers are quick to defend it, a way of equally distributing the tips, distributing it amongst all the non-customer facing employess, such as busboys and car wash attendants, the guys who actually wash the car, not the person who finishes it and delivers you your keys. That would be admirable and fair if it where not clouded by the fact that employers take a portion of such tips, which they defend as simply a cost of administrating the "equal distribution of tips".

Where do you stand on this issue? Do you support the employers right to administer the tips given to their employees?

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