Posted: 02/24/14 12:28
by Dave Mindeman
Let's dig a bit deeper into minimum wage.
The legislature is poised to make some changes here. It's coming late, but better late than never. Like I have stated before, I think that the $9.50 per hour figure is a minimum threshold, not a ceiling. A true living wage is considerably north of that figure. But the push back is going to be significant, so, for now, we will deal with that number.
The most "legitimate" argument for any kind of exemption comes from the restaurant industry. Somehow, whether by tradition or as a means of customer input, the restaurant industry manages to have the customers of their business also pay a significant portion of their employees salary. Now, in actual terms, tips are a direct reward system for the employee providing a service - as a contractor.....so it should not count as "wages" that the employer gets credit for. But in realistic terms, that is not the perception and waiters and waitresses have to count on tips as part of their salary structure.
Restaurant operations have counted on this system, budget that way, and expect it to continue. Therefore, an accommodation of some sort of exception is probably in order - and probably will happen.
Even with an exemption, there still needs to be a base increase here. The disparity between restaurant menu prices directly affects the tipping that the employees get. Small diner servers will never come close to getting the extra tip income that the finer restaurants can guarantee. It is difficult to differentiate all of this because tipping is not guaranteed income. Like I said, it is almost a contractor service and the employee, not the restaurant, has to earn the money directly from the consumer. The restaurant, by its pricing, only determines the potential of what the tip may be.
So, do we tier the minimum at restaurants with different price structures? That can complicate the law too much. I personally think that any exemption should stick to lower volume restaurants and that the higher priced venues should not be exempt at all. But it is doubtful that we can pass a law with that much detail.
So, a restaurant exemption will need to be addressed, but even then a wage increase of some kind is necessary for this "exemption".
In the Minnpost article linked above, I found this laughable....
With a straight face, Republican leaders and Chamber leaders say they support an increase to the $7.25, the current federal level. But, of course, that's not really supporting anything. Most minimum-wage workers in the state already are paid at that level and not the $6.15 official state rate.
In other words, that is an increase of nothing. Frankly, it is embarrassing that the Minnesota state wage is that far below the Federal standard. Minnesota should be better than that and hopefully, this legislature will finally fix this ridiculous disparity once and for all. For business and the GOP to even suggest that $7.25 be the allowed increase proves that they are not even serious about the negotiations. That argument simply takes them out of the debate - the Democrats, by default, will have to decide.
So, is $9.50 per hour the magic number? It looks like it is possible. Minimum wage workers should thank the unions of this state for making that a possibility. Without their media campaign regarding that number, it would not be the acceptable number it has become. And if minimum wage workers would think about it, unions could do this type of thing for all of you. Joining a union would make the minimum wage debate work more in the workers favor. It is worth considering.
But, legislatively, this is where we are at. The legislature will get hit with business pressure. The Republicans will go into their "let the market decide" hyperbole. (Which makes it quite clear that the "market" is quite happy with poverty wages for workers). But this increase is long overdue and if they can tie it COLAs, so much the better.
Minimum wage workers have no lobbyists. They don't have PACs. They live paycheck to paycheck hoping for a dime here or quarter there to keep them going.
Business gets there say on every issue. This time the workers get their due.
It's about time. $9.50 or bust.