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Servers offer their two cents on eliminating tip wages



waiter cafe new york

The past year has seen a surge of stories about sexual harassment, from the political world to Hollywood, in business and in communities.

In New York and many other states, sexual harassment has been seen as a problem in the food service industry in particular.

In December 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor, aligning itself with the National Restaurant Association, proposed a rule that would allow employers to keep workers’ tips when they are paid at least the minimum wage. The idea was that tipping was to blame for high rates of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he plans to end minimum wage tip credits and instead have servers, like other workers, earn a flat rate.

Those in support of a flat pay rate say that, under the current system, sometimes a server has to choose between overlooking inappropriate behavior and risking the loss of a tip by protesting.
But local restaurant workers — tipped or not — feel they and others in the service industry are being shortchanged. Many local service employees say they aren’t flashing a smile to harassing customers for better tips.

“It’s an absolute cop-out!” Bullpen Tavern owner Paul Bricoccoli said about the theory that tips fuel sexual harassment.

Numerous servers interviewed in Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties said they work hard for their tips and want to keep their tips but will not tolerate sexual harassment for better tips. Most of them emphasized that they, and their bosses, are prepared to protest bad behavior.

“Anyone who disrespects my female employees is out the door in 10 seconds. I have no problem kicking people out who treat my employees with disrespect,” Bricoccoli said.

Bricoccoli has four female servers/bartenders and said he has rarely had any issues with sexual harassment. In his 24 years in business, he said he has heard the odd inappropriate comment and witnessed a grab her and there, but it has been addressed on the spot.

“And if you do (have problems), it’s the owner’s fault. Using tips as the reason is such an excuse,” he said.

Not always right
Lauren Squires, a bartender and server at O’Toole’s Restaurant Pub in Queensbury, credits her management for maintaining a respectful atmosphere.

“We’re servers, not slaves,” Squires said.

Squires said she has received her share of lascivious comments, but she isn’t afraid to handle them on her own.

“But honestly, he or even our regulars would put an end to it before I even had to,” Squires said, pointing to her boss, Mike Moynihan, the general manager.

“We’re a little family here, from the front of house to the back. We all have each other’s backs.”

Squires did note that the “customer is always right” ethos tilts the equation, creating a power imbalance, but added that, at some point, the customer is just wrong.

Maggie Raczynski, a bartender at Outback Steakhouse in Clifton Park, said her staff would never stand for sexual harassment either, because “here we treat each other like family.”

“And family doesn’t stand for that,” she said.

Raczynski cited a recent piece from The New York Times, published on March 12 and headlined “The Tipping Equation.” The story explored how far is too far when weighing harassing behavior for a better tip.

In the article, waitresses described encounters they had with pushy men who touched them, made outrageous remarks and threatened their tip if they didn’t participate in the power trip.

Raczynski said an even more infuriating aspect of the story were the women’s cases in which the waitstaff confided in their managers, who then sided with the customers. One even shook a customer’s hand after he had made inappropriate remarks to the waitress.

“Just because we work for tips doesn’t mean we don’t have basic human rights and don’t know the difference between right and wrong,” Raczynski said.

Asked to leave
In this area, The Post-Star approached servers at seven local establishments to ask about their experience with sexual harassment in the workplace and tipping. Two servers did not participate, because they didn’t want to discuss their incidents or get their workplace in trouble; one never followed up with The Post-Star; one said she has never dealt with sexual harassment at work; and the other three, quoted in this story, said they address any problems they do encounter head-on.

All of the interviewed establishments have their own sexual harassment policies, and most assign a new server to an offending customer or simply ask the offending customer to leave.

“If you cross a line with me, your money won’t make or break my life. And if your boss won’t do something about it, your boss has a boss. There are other options and nobody should have to tolerate that. Trust me, there’s another job for you in another restaurant,” Raczynski said.

Fighting to save tips
In New York, there are roughly 200,000 servers and bartenders, making those jobs the most common in the state.

On March 21, restaurant workers and their allies won bipartisan support from members of Congress and the Trump administration to include a provision in the omnibus budget bill that, if enacted, codifies protections for tipped restaurant workers against employers, supervisors and managers taking any portion of their tips.

Employers in New York currently are permitted to pay tipped workers a direct cash wage that is below the state minimum wage and take a “credit” for some of the tips received by employees to satisfy the difference between the cash wage paid and the full minimum wage.

With the current model, servers can make a good living. Data from the New York City Hospitality Alliance show that servers could average $25 an hour with tips.

Raczynski makes anywhere from $17 to $35 an hour from tips alone, she said. Her $7.50 per hour wage comes on top of that.

“It’s because I work hard at my job and am good at my job, and for no other reason,” she said.

Kelsey Silburn, 25, a bartender at Bullpen, said the tips make the work feasible.

“Most of us would not be able to pay our bills without the tips that we receive, even if the minimum wage was raised,” Silburn said, talking about the legislation to emphasize wages over tips. “It seems like those in charge of making this decision don’t really understand how something like this will affect the employees and the restaurant business as a whole.”

That message was echoed loud and clear on March 15 at Longfellows Hotel in Saratoga Springs.

More than 100 servers and restaurant owners attended a meeting that day, and Raczynski was one of them. Joshua Chaisson, a leader with Restaurant Workers of America and within Restaurant Workers of Maine, helped lead the meeting.

Restaurant Workers of America is the first organization of its kind — an employee advocacy organization dedicated to the preservation of tip income.

The purpose of the forum was to get servers and other service industry employees from the area together to express their dislike for the proposed tip credit law and discuss how to move forward. When the topic of sexual harassment fueling the tip proposal came up, numerous women, and men, made gestures and sounds of disappointment.

“What a lie” and “so insulting” were comments audience members made.

Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, was FaceTimed into the conversation.

“You’re professional salespeople and not victims, and I support you,” Woerner said over the phone.

Raczynski wrote a letter in response to the 16 celebrities who announced their support for Cuomo’s proposal. Between New York and Maine, 500 servers have signed the letter.

“To the celebrity women who recently criticized the full-service restaurant industry, from thousands of women who work in it, thank you for your concern. But we don’t need your help, and we’re not asking to be saved. You’ve been misled that we earn less than minimum wage, and that we are somehow helpless victims of sexual harassment,” is how the letter starts.

“Bad behavior happens in every industry — Hollywood celebrities should know better than most that sexual harassment happens everywhere. The people who are pushing for this change in the restaurant industry are exploiting the isolated stories of people that have suffered injustices, and making it out to be the industry’s or the tipping system’s fault. That is just not true.”

“We respect your profession, and now it’s time for you to respect ours.”


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Source says more than 300 immigrant kids separated from family are in New York; Gov. Cuomo says he’ll sue the feds over ‘illegal’ Trump policy




Gov. Cuomo

Gov. Cuomo said Tuesday he will sue the federal government over its policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.’ southern border, as more than 70 of those children have wound up in facilities in New York State — with a federal source telling the Daily News the number of separated children here is even higher, 311.

There’s been a lot of talk about the morality of this practice, but we also believe that this practice is illegal, and we are intending to bring suit against the federal government, ” Cuomo said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon.

Cuomo said the children are being held in private facilities, including three in the Bronx, that are contracted by the federal government to provide services to unaccompanied alien children — minors who cross the border alone and whom the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement temporarily houses while seeking family sponsors.

But these are not unaccompanied alien children. These are children who were separated from their parents,” Cuomo said.

A federal source told The News that the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s population of unaccompanied minors in New York State’s lower 14 counties was 1,321 as of Monday — but of those, 311 are actually in shelters as a result of separation from family held in detention centers. All of the facilities in the area house boys and girls, except one that houses boys 14 to 17, the source said.

Cuomo said that while the state has oversight of the facilities, it has been told it cannot provide services to the children in them without approval from the federal Health and Human Services Department, which he said told the state it would take weeks.

As for the suit, Cuomo said he intends to bring it in the next two weeks and that it would be based on three legal theories.

First, that it’s a violation of the constitutional rights of the parent to the care, custody and control of their children,” he said, and a violation of their due process as the children were removed without any hearings.

The second theory, he said, is the policy violates the terms of the 1997 Flores settlement that set national standards on the detention, release and treatment of children in immigration detention “and underscores the principle of family unity.”

And third, he said, “it is outrageous government conduct.

Cuomo said the state has the legal right to bring such a suit.

New York has standing, these agencies have standing, because there are children in New York who are, who have been taken from their parents without due process,” Cuomo said.

His counsel, Alphonso David, said, “The state is vindicating due process, familial association rights, of the children who are located in New York State. In addition New York State is protecting the health and welfare of children within its jurisdiction.

Some of those children are being held at MercyFirst in Syosset, L.I., as reported Monday. Gerard McCaffrey, president and CEO of MercyFirst, brushed past a reporter seeking confirmation that nearly 60 kids are being housed there.

It’s late at night. You can call me at work tomorrow,” said McCaffrey as he rushed into his Upper East Side apartment building.

Cuomo did not have a breakdown of how many children have been shipped to sites in New York.

We have about 10 facilities in the state. We haven’t spoken with all of them,” Cuomo said. “We know there are over 70 children, just by the ones that we have talked about, but they are in Dobbs Ferry, Lincolndale, Yonkers, Irvington, three in the Bronx, one in Syosett and one in Kingston.”

In a followup interview with The News, David declined to characterize these facilities, saying they offer varying degrees of security and services. They are co-located in facilities that provide state-certified foster care programs, David said, but the migrant children are not part of the state’s foster care network. Instead, the agencies contract directly with the Health and Human Services Department and its Office of Refugee Resettlement.

A second federal source said the Health and Human Services Department-funded facilities in New York for unaccompanied minors are not comparable to conditions at the facilities along the border, which include chain-link cages.

Based off our conversations with providers contracted by the federal government, we believe there are dozens, and possibly many more, of separated children in New York City,” Seth Stein, a spokesman for Mayor de Blasio, said. “We have every indication that they are being cared for by qualified facilities and foster families. But that doesn’t make these family separations any less unconscionable and immoral in the mayor’s eyes.

Typically, unaccompanied minors arrive in New York because they have family nearby, and they are held in such facilities while the government looks for relative sponsors to place them with.

Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, Westchester County, — which has a contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement to provide such services — describes its program as a “family-like and nurturing environment,” that offers education, recreation, medical care and family reunification. It declined to comment on its unaccompanied minors program or whether it had children who were separated from their parents at the border.

In the Bronx, both Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Guardian Services have federal contracts to provide services and shelter to unaccompanied minors. The communications office at Lutheran Social Services said it could not answer questions about whether it housed children separated at the border; Catholic Guardian Services did not return a message left Tuesday afternoon.

At an unrelated press conference, de Blasio said it’s horrible to begin with for a child to be taken from his or her parent even if they’re held in separate facilities in the same town.

But it’s much much worse if they’re separated by 1,000 miles, and you have no idea when that family’s going to get reunified,” he said. “And that’s what we fear we’re seeing, and we just have to do everything we can to stop it.

De Blasio, who said he is considering a trip to the border, said that if visiting a facility here would help, he’d also consider that.

I want to do whatever I can to stop this broken, inhumane policy,” he said, calling the border the immediate issue. “I also want to see anything we can do to stop New York City from being used as a place to send children separated from their parents.”

Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito — who just returned from a trip to the border — said it was as if the children had been “disappeared.”

“It tells you the enormity of this issue,” she said of having to house children separated at the border all the way in New York. “That’s what that tells you.”

City Public Advocate Letitia James also ripped the policy, as she held a baby following an unrelated press conference on child care.

It is unconscionable in this country that we are basically snatching babies from the arms of their families, their mothers,” she said. “We should not be cooperating in this policy that separates families.”

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Trump, House GOP meet as tensions boil over child-detention crisis: ‘Politically, this is bad’




Trump, House GOP meet as tensions boil over child-detention crisis: 'Politically, this is bad'

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday told House Republicans he is “1,000 percent” behind their rival immigration bills, providing little clear direction for party leaders searching for a way to defuse the escalating controversy over family separations at the southern border.

And it’s uncertain if Trump’s support will be enough to push any legislation through the divided GOP majority.

GOP lawmakers, increasingly fearful of a voter backlash in November, met with Trump for about an hour at the Capitol to try to find a solution that both holds to Trump’s hard-line immigration policy and ends the practice of taking migrant children from parents charged with entering the country illegally. Many lawmakers say Trump could simply reverse the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and keep families together.

While Trump held firm to his tough immigration stance in an earlier appearance Tuesday, he acknowledged during the closed-door meeting that the coverage of family separations is taking a toll. Trump said his daughter, Ivanka, had told him the situation with the families looks bad, one lawmaker said.

“He said, ’Politically, this is bad,’” said Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas. “It’s not about the politics, this is the right thing to do.”

But Trump touched on many topics during the meeting, including his historic meeting with the North Korean Kim Jong Un. He praised a few GOP lawmakers by name for defending him on TV, according to one Republican in the room. And he took a jab at Rep. Mark Sanford, congratulating the South Carolina Republican on his recent campaign, according to others granted anonymity to discuss the private meeting. Sanford, a frequent Trump critic, lost after his GOP primary opponent highlighted his criticism of the president.

As Trump walked out of the session in the Capitol basement, he was confronted by about a half-dozen House Democrats, who yelled, “Stop separating our families!”
Leaders in both the House and Senate are struggling to shield the party’s lawmakers from the public outcry over images of children taken from migrant parents and held in cages at the border. But they are running up against Trump’s shifting views on specifics and his determination, according to advisers, not to look soft on his signature immigration issue, the border wall.

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said Trump told lawmakers he “would continue to support the legislation, and that people shouldn’t be worried that he would change his mind.” She said it was a light moment. “Everybody laughed.”

Even if Republicans manage to pass an immigration bill through the House, which is a tall order, the fight is all but certain to fizzle in the Senate.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader from New York, is adamant that Trump can end the family separations on his own and that legislation is not needed.

Without Democratic support, Republicans cannot muster the 60 votes needed to move forward on legislation.

Schumer said with most Americans against family separations, it’s Republicans “feeling the heat on this issue, and that’s why they’re squirming.”

In the House, GOP leaders scrambled Tuesday to produce a revised version of the broader immigration bill that would keep children in detention longer than now permitted — but with their parents.

The major change unveiled Tuesday would loosen rules that now limit the amount of time minors can be held to 20 days, according to a GOP source familiar with the measure. Instead, the children could be detained indefinitely with their parents.

The revision would also give the Department of Homeland Security the authority to use $7 billion in border technology funding to pay for family detention centers, said the person, who was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and commented only on condition of anonymity.

In the Senate, meanwhile, Republicans are rallying behind a different approach. Theirs is narrow legislation proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would allow detained families to stay together in custody while expediting their hearings and possible deportation proceedings.

Cruz’s bill would double the number of federal immigration judges, authorize new temporary shelters to house migrant families and limit the processing of asylum cases to no more than 14 days — a goal immigrant advocates say would be difficult to meet.

“While cases are pending, families should stay together,” tweeted Cruz, who is in an unexpectedly tough re-election battle.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters he’s reaching out to Democrats for bipartisan backing.

The family separation issue boiled over Tuesday at a House hearing on an unrelated subject, when protesters with babies briefly shut down proceedings.

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, pleaded with Republicans on the panel to “stand up” to Trump.

Under the administration’s current policy, all unlawful crossings are referred for prosecution — a process that moves adults to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Under the Obama administration, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation.

More than 2,300 minors were separated from their families at the border from May 5 through June 9, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The national outcry has roiled midterm election campaigns, emboldening Democrats while putting Republicans on the defensive.

Top conservatives, including key Trump allies, have introduced bills to keep the migrant families together. Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said he has introduced a measure that “becomes a backup proposal” if others fail.

The House is to vote later this week on two bills that address broader immigration issues to protect young immigrant “Dreamers,” who have been living in the U.S. illegally since childhood, from deportation and fund Trump’s border wall.

But outlook for passage is dim. One conservative measure is expected to fail. And it’s unclear if Trump’s backing will help the compromise legislation that GOP leaders negotiated with moderate Republicans. Rep. Steve Scalise of Lousiana, the GOP whip, told reporters he thought it had enough support to pass. Votes are expected Thursday.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa.,a member of the House Freedom Caucus, says he doesn’t like compromise bill “because it’s all compromising in one direction.”

Perry was not at the meeting with Trump, but said he doubts the president’s words will affect his position.

“Well, good for him, but he’s not running for Congress.”

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New York is planning to change policy regarding marijuana




Bill de Blasio smile

Today, the mayor will discuss new amendments to the legislation regarding marijuana. As expected, these changes will lead to a reduction in the number of arrests.

All these actions are caused by previous severe policy in respect to minorities, which caused an ominous wave of criticism.

The sources say that soon instead of arrests the police will issue subpoenas to people who smoke or have less than 25 grams of marijuana. All this is done in order to get rid of “unnecessary arrests”, i.e. the police will change the entire cycle of handling low-level crimes related to marijuana. But again, if the person who was caught has been conditionally released early, or has been caught while driving or in relations to some other factors that will be announced later, then the arrest of that person will be at the discretion of the officer.

Commissioner Howard Zucker refers to neighboring states that have already legalized marijuana, and calls for looking at such things differently because the world is changing and legislation cannot stand still. Zucker says that the report on the analysis of any social consequences of the legalization of marijuana is not yet ready.

Zucker was also supported by Corey Jones, the chairman of the city council, who believes that the policy regarding marijuana in New York is irrational and unfair. This statement is referred to the previous concern about racism in the arrests of New York. Previously, de Blasio said that when taxing on marijuana, the collected money will go to the development of the New York City MTA, and even tried to persuade others to legalize marijuana in order to sort the problems of the subway. But now Jones says that with the possibility of legalization of this type of light drugs, the money which the state will receive should be invested into treating drug-addicted citizens.

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