Emmer’s tip to restaurants

The gubernatorial candidate proposed to slash server wages.

The first stop of Republican Tom Emmer’s “Freedom and Prosperity Tour,” at Eagle Street Grille in St. Paul, was an odd one. Emmer used the well-off restaurant — its location is just across the street from the Xcel Energy Center, and it just expanded operations — to make an argument about the strife of restaurant owners across the state. Why? Because state law forces them to pay servers at least $5.25 per hour, still below the federal minimum wage levels.
“With the tips that they get to take home,” there are some servers earning over $100,000 a year, Emmer said, “more than the very people providing the jobs and investing not only their life savings but their families’ future.”
What’s incredible about that argument was not that Emmer made it at a restaurant with the means to allegedly pay its wait staff enough for them to take a grand home annually. No, what was incredible was that he cut the issue as one of the servers versus restaurant operators.
The restaurant industry, on the other hand, complains that, because Minnesota is one of seven states that forbids employers to use a tip credit to avoid paying employees minimum wage, restaurant operators are unable to pay back room staffs equitable wages. “We wanted to use that dollar to go to the back of the house. Chefs, cooks, dishwashers,” said Dave Siegel, executive vice president of the Minnesota Restaurant Association, in an interview.
But Emmer wants you to eat on the cheap. He argues that a tip credit law would lower the costs and create more jobs. Jobs that, if Emmer were to rely on federal law, would allow employers to pay gratuity-based earners a solid $2.13 an hour.