At both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions this year, CNN sponsored a popup restaurant called CNN Grill, where the guests were famous, the TVs were enormous, and all the food and booze was free. But now, nearly two months after the RNC in Tampa, Fla., servers at the CNN Grill there say the network has stiffed them on promised tips.
The restaurant, which Gawker described as “basically an upscale TGI Friday's with tons of huge televisions and Wolf Blitzer, in person, in the back of the room,” was part restaurant and part TV studio. The food was free, but only invited guests could get in.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, waitress Samantha Fenwick and other staffers were recruited by New York-based Amerivents, which told them in an email that they would be tipped at the end of the event. After weeks of trying to track down the elusive tips, Fenwick finally heard that she should expect $329 for the 60 hours she worked. She and her coworkers were not pleased by the numbers.
"That's just insulting," she told Gawker. "I worked back-to-back 16 hour shifts for three days at a packed event. Even if you assume I was getting 15% tips from customers, I would have made way more than $329 in tips that time."
The post-event tips were in addition to a $10 hourly wage, overtime, and on-site tips that were pooled and redistributed at the event. But those tips were small, according to Gawker, because the food and drinks were free. Fenwick said servers were told to discourage tips and tell customers, “CNN will take care of us.”
CNN told the Tampa Bay Times that Civic Entertainment Group, the company that ran the events, said everything was fine.
"CEG has assured us they honored every financial commitment made and that there was always a plan for an additional bonus, which has already been sent and should be received by the Grill staff shortly," CNN said in a statement. "We appreciated their hard work."