From NY Mag's daily food blog:
When Mr. Pink made his famous speech in defense of not tipping in Reservoir Dogs, he left out a very basic point. Waiters don't make the minimum wage; they live off our decency. Workers have more to worry about than European-style tippers, though: A group of them has sued the management of the Old Homestead Steakhouse, to the tune of $1 million, for skimming their pool of gratuities. That suit is small potatoes, however, compared to the massive class-action case against Fireman Hospitality Group, brought to our attention by the Restaurant Opportunities Commission.
Read the rest here, with a link to the o.g. NYP article.
When I worked at my first restaurant job here in NYC (henceforth known as "The Place"), they had strict rules about doing paperwork and tallying up sales at the end of our shift. We pooled money. A certain percentage went to the bar, the hostess and busboys. This was normal. We had a foodrunner (who, by the way, didn't contribute a single cent to the pot), and her share was equal to almost 85% of our tips. Meaning, if we took home $100, she was likely to walk with about $80. When I asked one senior server about it, he just said, "We don't really discuss it." I should have taken that as a cue to get the hell out, as I had a callback from another, probably more reputable establishment (and only 8 blocks from home). I ended up staying for a year and a half, during which time my life fell apart and I moved to Brooklyn, even further than my original residence and therefore not worth the bullshit, not worth the bipolar gay manager, and certainly not worth busting my ass and pulling in over $300 on a Saturday night, only to have it pooled out and receive $140 the next day. I started skimming from my own tips - mostly out of spite, but also because I was pretty broke. At $3.35/hour, I usually received a 0.00 paycheck. It was even worse one day when I handed the tip envelope to our runner for her share and she refused it saying, "Isn't this your money?" Bitch never even got our tips, it went back into the house.
Quitting time. I gave my two weeks and got screwed when the manager said, "I just took you off immediately, I don't want you to work here if your heart isn't in it." No, it was not in it. I was doing drugs off his desk and then thinking of ways to injure myself (burn myself? throw myself down the stairs? fake food poisoning? which would've been easy, considering the slop we were given to eat for our staff meals) so I could be sent home. Our bartender slipped so many drinks under the bar to us that we were usually wasted by 8:30pm.
And now I am here, two more restaurant jobs, two winters in California on a ranch and my first career job later. The thought of ever working in a restaurant again makes me ill. I still keep in touch with a few people I worked with back there - we are forever bound by hate.