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Nevada Prevent Employers from Seizing Tips Initiative (2008)

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Prevent Employers from Seizing Tips Initiative did not make the November 4, 2008 ballot. The measure would have prohibited employers from requiring employees to pool or share tips with any other employees. The proposal would have allowed employees to make their own arrangements for tip pooling and sharing, as they deemed appropriate. The proposal would ensure that any collective bargaining arrangement regarding tip pooling or sharing be allowed to operate without interference.

This ballot measure was a citizen-initiated indirect statute. The measure was withdrawn by proponents in August 2008 after opponents threatened, unless the measure were withdrawn, to seek attorney fees in their suit to stop the initiative. Kermitt Waters, an attorney for the Committee to Prevent Employers from Seizing Tips, said his clients wouldn't have been able to cover such a judgment if it were awarded.[1]

Background

This initiative was a reaction to a controversial tip-pooling program instituted in September 2006 by casino owner Steve Wynn, in which table game supervisors shared in the tips earned by dealers. Wynn executives had stated that the move was made to correct what had been a widening disparity between the wages earned by dealers and casino floor supervisors. Some dealers at Wynn estimated their annual take-home wages would have been cut by 10-20%.

Gaming insiders immediately viewed the move as controversial because it had set aside typical casino policy in which dealers collected, pooled, and distributed among themselves any tips earned on the casino floor. Because Wynn had significant high-end casino play, the range between what dealers earned and what salaried casino supervisors took home was far greater than at other Las Vegas resorts.

Soon after the policy was implemented, more than 100 Wynn dealers formally complained about the program to the State Labor Commissioner, who rejected their protests. That same day, two Wynn dealers filed a lawsuit in District Court and sought class-action status on behalf of more than 500 dealers affected by the new program. That suit was dismissed by District Court Judge Douglas Herndon in December 2006. Judge Herndon said there was no contract of employment between the dealers and Wynn, so Nevada law allowed an employer to change its tip-pooling policies.[2]

Supporters

The initiative was filed by the Committee to Prevent Employers from Seizing Tips (PEST), a committee of the International Union of Gaming Employees (IUGE). Supporters of the measure stated that casino owner Steve Wynn wanted to change a working system that had served the tip-earners working force for years, wanting instead to have personally taken control and possession of the employees’ money, to have set a precedent in the tip-earning community.

Assemblyman Bob Beers stated the groups that fought the petition believed voters would have passed it if the initiative came before them. He helped author a bill during the 2007 Legislature that would have banned Wynn's tip-sharing policy. It passed the Assembly but died in a Senate committee.

"I've been disappointed a lot by how the state gives one type of justice to the average working people and another type of justice to the powerful and wealthy. This is an example of it," Beers said.

IUGE director Al Maurice stated, "It leaves the people of Nevada no other choice than to use the initiative process. We need to bypass the Legislature because it is obvious the Legislature is owned by the casinos."[3]

Opponents

Opponents had filed a lawsuit to try to keep the initiative off the ballot. Plaintiffs in the suit included Wynn Las Vegas, the Nevada Restaurant Association, the Retail Association of Nevada, the Nevada Motor Transport Association, Nevada Manufacturers Association, and the Nevada Tavern Association. The lawsuit charged that the initiative violated the state's single-subject rule for initiatives.[4]

Nevada Restaurant Association saw many potential problems with the initiative. Since the initiative would put tipped employees in charge of whether tips can be pooled, there could have been many different tip pools put together throughout any business with the employer having no say about which employees could have been allocated a share of the pools or any allocation to any particular employee.

Because it was not limited to gaming employees, it would have affected every employer and business with tipped employees in Nevada. The NRA also saw it as a major problem that "eligible employees" who decided that their own tip pools were only those "who are the actual and direct recipients of the tips or gratuities," leaving those who "indirectly" received tips (as well as their employers) at the mercy of others as to whether they would have received any share of the tips.[5]

Status

The measure was withdrawn by proponents in August 2008 after opponents threatened, unless the measure were withdrawn, to seek attorney fees in their suit to stop the initiative. Kermitt Waters, an attorney for the Committee to Prevent Employers from Seizing Tips, said his clients wouldn't have been able to cover such a judgment if it were awarded.[1]

Proponents needed to file 58,628 signatures by November 11 to put the issue before the 2009 Legislature, and possibly before the voters in 2010.

See also

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References