During the 2013-2014 legislative session, Minnesota’s lawmakers worked to pass one of the most worker-friendly minimum wage laws in the nation. By 2016, minimum wage workers in the state will earn $9.50 an hour, and in 2018 the wage will start increasing with inflation in order to keep up with the needs of working families.
However, the Republican-controlled Minnesota House held a hearing yesterday on a bill that would implement a tip penalty for tipped workers: workers who earn more than $12 an hour in tips could have their base pay lowered to $8 an hour with no future increases regarding inflation.
The bill stems from conservative logic that says a worker earning tips should have their hourly wages reduced, as voiced in 2010 by Republicans like Tom Emmer, who claimed waiters and bartenders earn $100,000 a year. However, MinnPost analyzed Emmer’s claim and found that salary to be extremely far from the average income of tipped workers. In fact, the salaries for which Emmer was trying to reduce were already too minimal to bring and keep tipped workers’ families out of poverty.
At the hearing yesterday, workers who would be impacted testified against the bill. One of them was Jacquita Berens of Robbinsdale, who has been a waitress for several years and was recently forced to take a second job to make ends meet. She told committee members serving is hard work, and tips aren’t guaranteed. Berens even went a step further and challenged members of the committee to try serving at a wage of $8 an hour for a few weeks to see if it’s livable:
I guarantee it, you can’t.
Other servers at the hearing said the passing of the bill could worsen the pay gap between men and women. Some worry that reducing the wages of restaurant workers could also eventually lead to reducing wages in the health care sector and other fields.
As the Star Tribune’s editorial board pointed out in 2013, a third of Minnesota’s minimum wage workers are parents or married, which means families benefit the most from an increased minimum wage. Tipped workers should not have to worry about whether they’ll be able to keep food on the table for their family with their next paycheck, but in the event of this bill passing, that could become their reality.
Because of our state’s fair minimum wage law, tipped workers have more incentive to continue working and raising families here.
Even restaurants in Minnesota that have implemented minimum wage increases for their tipped workers say the increase is an investment in the business as a whole because workers who are paid more feel more connected to the places at which they work.
The most significant outcome the passing of this bill would bring is a guarantee that tipped workers will not earn minimum wage in our state. Reducing the wages of hardworking employees is not a precedent Minnesota should set for the rest of the country.