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Whenever young journalists ask how to write stories that can change lives, I suggest they start asking about tipping policies whenever they see a tip jar or valet, or visit a restaurant.

No matter what city in the U.S. they call home, it’s only a matter of time before such questions unearth a story of injustice that will outrage the public and likely change the daily lives of fellow humans who make their living waiting on the rest of us.

For more than 10 years, I’ve been writing about tipping practices that punish employees who, by law, already make an abysmal hourly wage.

Some employers and supervisors seem never to run out of ways to cheat hardworking men — and mostly women — who spend entire workdays on their feet trying to please strangers.

Bosses, for example, may skim or keep the entire contents of tip jars, which I first discovered in 2004. They also may deduct a credit-card service charge from tips not left in cash. Sometimes, they violate federal labor law and force servers to pay unpaid checks left by scurrying customers.

As I’ve learned in my years of reporting, there are essentially two ways to change these dishonorable practices. One way is to call them out, one reported incident at a time, thus alerting a public willing to wield the force of their wallets. The other way, which is far more effective, is to pass laws to protect the rights of these hourly wage earners whose desire to stay employed and support their families renders them defenseless.

In Rhode Island, state representative Aaron Regunberg is trying to legislate what some restaurant owners will do only when it is demanded of them. His bill, co-sponsored in the state senate by Gayle Goldin, would elevate the daily lives of those who work in the food service industry by raising the minimum wage and eliminating tip theft.

His bill would incrementally raise tipped workers’ wages until, by 2020, they would be comparable to the state’s regular minimum wage. Imagine that. Still not a living wage, perhaps, but at least they would no longer be forced to depend on tips to make even the minimum.

The bill would also end the employer practice of deducting credit-card service fees from tips. It would restrict the use of pooled tips. And it would require that employees receive the total amount of the tips and those deceptively tagged “service charges,” which customers too often mistakenly assume to mean “tips.”

Regunberg is a former community organizer who is young enough and engaged enough to still name many of the people he is trying to help.

“I’ve heard about these restaurant practices from constituents, but also from friends who work in the service industry,” he said in a phone interview. “The restaurant industry is well organized and opposed to this, but what I’m hoping to do, through hearings, is voices of actual workers so their stories will be heard and shared.”

A coalition of groups in Rhode Island has coalesced in support of the bill. Among them: organized labor, the NAACP Providence Branch, Planned Parenthood, Fuerza Laboral, Farm Fresh Rhode Island and the Bell Street Chapel. The unifying theme is apparent. All of these groups, and others who have signed on, champion people who are often invisible, even when standing right in front of us.

Some restaurant owners have criticized Regunberg’s bill as overreaching. “They say, ‘There are a few bad apples, but most of us aren’t like this.’ But if you aren’t really doing this, what is the problem with tightening the law for those who are?”

That’s the kind of talk that gets you into trouble with the people who need the talkin’ to.


Regunberg illustrates why we need our young leaders for these troubled times. He imagines a better world for those who aren’t as fortunate as he, and arms himself with facts and figures to dislodge the stodgy from their affection for the status quo.

“What we’re trying to do with this bill is the epitome of economic development, because we’re putting our money into the economy,” he said. “People who work at restaurants might actually be able to take their own families out to dinner.”

Until that happens, in Rhode Island and wherever you may live, I offer these reminders.

Whenever possible, please tip in cash.

If you must leave your tip on a credit card, please ask if the server, coat-check worker or valet keeps the full amount.

Every time you see a tip jar, please ask who keeps them.

And please, dear readers, whenever you find out management has the wrong answer, drop me a line at

Change is incremental, but with you at the helm, it’s also unstoppable.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz ( and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at

Photo: Dave Dugdale via Flickr


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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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