Further revealing how far the Trump administration is willing to go to "actively make workers' lives worse," Bloomberg Law reported on Wednesday that White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney personally approved the Labor Department's decision to delete an internal analysis showing that its proposed "tip-sharing rule" would allow companies to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from their employees per year.
"Good lord Mulvaney is energetically corrupt. Took time out from his crusade to unleash big banks and let them ruin the economy again to make sure waitstaff in restaurants had their tips stolen."
—Josh Bivens, Economic Policy Institute
"This is a transparency concern, a legal concern, and I think it's got to be a concern for the legitimacy and the integrity of the deregulatory agenda writ large," Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen, argued in response to the revelation. "It's pretty apparent that in this case and potentially others, the administration [is] willing to manipulate the cost-benefit numbers to make them look good for their attempts to roll back regulatory protections."
By green-lighting the removal of crucial data from the department's final rule—which worker advocacy groups have termed the "tip-stealing" proposal—Mulvaney overrode the objections of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which argued that the unfavorable findings must be included.
Citing sources familiar with the process, Bloomberg Law reports how Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, in order to subvert the regulatory office's demand, "elevated the dispute to Mulvaney, who as Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director oversees OIRA."
Mulvaney ultimately sided with Acosta, and the Labor Department scrubbed its internal analysis from the final proposal.
"The story about how Secretary Acosta pushed out the tip stealing rule while hiding the cost from the public keeps getting uglier," Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, wrote in response to Bloomberg Law's reporting. "Having to go so far up the chain to get the okay to flout the rules shows that Acosta knew that they were trying to get away with something."
Other commentators reacted on social media to the news of Mulvaney's personal involvement in the suppression of data, arguing that it "underscores how deep the rot of corruption and bad faith is in this administration."
This is a super wonky story, but it just underscores how deep the rot of corruption and bad faith is in this Administration. https://t.co/ev1EfbJId9
— Leah (@LeahSEsq) March 21, 2018
Mulvaney, a sleeper pick on the “worst Trump admin officials” lists, is always willing to help replace evidence-based policy with ideological and industry-friendly policy. https://t.co/zrb7L5vzqC
— Seth D. Michaels (@sethdmichaels) March 21, 2018
Good lord Mulvaney is energetically corrupt. Took time out from his crusade to unleash big banks and let them ruin the economy again to make sure waitstaff in restaurants had their tips stolen.https://t.co/2H2iKA94A3
— Josh Bivens (@joshbivens_DC) March 21, 2018
According to an analysis published by the Economic Policy Institite (EPI) in January, even the internal analysis that the Department of Labor successfully repressed downplayed how much the tip-stealing rule would harm workers.
While the Labor Department ultimately concluded that the rule could cost workers $640 million per year in earned tips, EPI found that the actual number would be somewhere around $5.8 billion—with $4.6 billion of that coming from the pockets of women.
In a statement on Wednesday, Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at EPI, argued that Acosta should withdraw the rule and "focus on things that promote the Labor Department's mission of serving working people, not undermining their earnings."