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Unite Here!, downtown service workers fighting ‘tip theft’

December 12, 2012

If you find yourself wandering the River Walk or downtown streets in the coming days, chances are you’ll run into one of these ballot box-strapped organizers (pictured above). Mostly downtown service workers and organizers with Unite Here!, here’s a very crude breakdown of what they’ll ask: When you get a “service charge” on your bill, don’t you assume that’s a tip?

The organizers claim downtown’s Grand Hyatt has for years been misleading guests and stiffing workers, pocketing a 22 percent “service charge” for dinners and events rather than giving it to workers. Some Hyatt workers claim management even tells them to lie to customers who ask if the service charge is a tip for workers. Unite Here! organizers continue to claim the practice amounts to “tip theft.” At an organizing meeting earlier this year, one Hyatt banquet server produced contracts between customers and hotel event planners specifically barring jars to collect tips for workers.

Unite Here! is hoping to pressure city leaders to pass what it’s calling “Mi TIA,” or the Tip Integrity Act, a local ordinance that would force the Hyatt (along with other hotels, restaurants, and bars) to disclose to customers whether a “service charge” actually goes to pay out workers or, as is current practice, gets kicked back to management. The organizers will be downtown Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday this week gathering signatures for a petition asking Council to move on the issue.

Unite Here says several local electeds have already signed pledges of support, among them Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, state Rep. Justin Rodriguez, and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. The group hopes to get downtown Councilman Diego Bernal, who has also signed on to support the effort, to file and carry the local ordinance through City Council. — Michael Barajas

  • Dylan Chumleigh

    I don’t believe it “Hyatt” is a most repudiated Hotel chain and they can not deal their staff like this!!!

  • musomutti

    @dylan, believe what you wish. as an employee since that hotel opened, i can attest that it happens there, as well as other hotels and resturants downtown every day. and they do deal with their staff in what many would judge to be an immoral way.

  • Annette Anderson

    I have dealt with movie theaters that serve food charge a service tip without my consent so yes i believed it was a forced tip and i refuse to add any additional tips. i do believe the workers should get any tips/service fees they earn. I do however want the choice to give any monies to workers for their service. They need to either give service fees to workers or not charge additional service fees (my choice) and let everyone tip the workers as they wish. I would sometimes think about giving more than the service fee charges but choose not to because i believed it was a forced tip. Education and choice it what is needed for the public.