What Is Trump's Labor Department Trying to Hide?

(Bloomberg View) -- The U.S. Labor Department recently proposed a rule change that could cost some of the country's lowest-paid workers billions of dollars. Worse, it now appears that the administration understood the likely consequences, and suppressed its research on the matter.

In December, the Department of Labor said it wanted to revoke a 2011 rule that forces restaurant owners to let servers keep their customers' tips. The industry opposed the rule, arguing that it has widened the wage gap between the waiters and bartenders who work for tips and the "back of house" workers, like cooks and dish washers, who don't. Restaurants said they wanted to pool the tips and share them with all their workers, which would be fairer.

On the face of it, not such a bad idea. The problem was that the new policy wouldn't require any such pooling. Businesses would be free to treat tips as just another source of revenue. As a result, according to one estimate, employers would skim $5.8 billion of the $36.4 billion in tips earned annually by restaurant workers.

When the Labor Department announced its intended new policy, starting a 60-day public-comment period that ends Feb. 5, it offered no analysis of how the new policy would affect workers. But in fact it had crunched the numbers. According to Bloomberg Law, the department found that workers would indeed lose billions in earnings. Rather than let the public judge the impact of the policy, based on this evidence alongside any reasons it might advance for discounting it, the administration apparently chose to bury the findings.

Who exactly made this decision is unclear. But it's one more disturbing sign of this administration's approach to government. One wonders, what's worse -- failing to do this kind of policy analysis in the first place, or doing it and then suppressing the inconvenient results?

--Editors: Romesh Ratnesar, Michael Newman.

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