With the tough economy continuing to hit individuals, families, and businesses nationwide, progressive legislators have sought to protect vital public investment in the nation’s communities, while many conservative lawmakers have turned to slashing social support for the most vulnerable Americans.
Minnesota GOP candidate for governor Tom Emmer falls in the second camp. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Emmer proposed cutting the minimum wage for service workers who receive tips, such as bartenders and waiters. In order to justify the cut, Emmer said that some of these employees earn “over $100,000 a year,” and even make more than the people who employ them:
Tom Emmer, the GOP-endorsed candidate for governor, told reporters at the Eagle Street Grille in St. Paul on Monday that the minimum wage for service workers who earn tips should be cut. Some waiters and bartenders, he noted, can earn as much as $100,000 a year, which he said is unfair to the employers that hire them.
“With the tips that they get to take home, they are some people earning over $100,000 a year. More than the very people providing the jobs and investing not only their life savings but their families’ future,” Emmer said.
Minnesota is one of few states that does not follow the federal minimum wage for tip-earners — $2.13 an hour. Instead, tip-earners make $5.25 to $7.25 an hour in addition to tips. Emmer says that hurts businesses’ bottom lines.
“Government can only inhibit business, can only keep it from growing, as opposed to creating jobs,” he said. “Right now, we have too much of it, guys. We’ve got to pull government back.”
In making his case for cutting the minimum wage for service employees, Emmer cites a figure that is wildly misrepresentative. While it may be true that “some” service workers can earn “over $100,000 a year,” most do not. According to the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor Services (BLS), Minnesota food and beverage service workers earned an average of $10.45 an hour in May 2010, a number that includes tips.
That means that the average full-time worker whose salary Emmer wants to cut likely earns less than a third of the dollar figure he cited in pushing for the cuts. Rather than trying to punish working class Minnesotans for for the sins of the financial elite that sent the economy into a tailspin, maybe Emmer should be working to stop the massive teacher layoffs and tuition hikes that his Republican colleague Gov. Tim Pawlenty has caused with his stubborn refusal to raise revenues by taxing the super wealthy.