Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has said since December that she opposes a minimum wage hike that exempts tipped workers such as servers and bartenders.
On Monday, Minneapolis City Council Members Lisa Bender, John Quincy and Abdi Warsame joined the mayor in opposition to a tip carveout, and they went a step further, calling explicitly for a $15 municipal minimum wage.
The three members of the 13-member City Council, which plans to take up discussion of a minimum wage ordinance this summer, said they are open to phasing a minimum wage hike in over years, and will give “careful consideration to impacts on small business,” taking into account recent listening sessions staff have held all over the city.
“This is the issue of the age right now in Minneapolis. It’s important to have a fair wage,” said Warsame. “Not all restaurants work the same. Not all tipped workers earn the same. I’ve been deliberating on this thing. It’s a very important safety net. Obviously it’s not a panacea, but I wanted to clarify my position.”
The question of what to do with tipped workers has been central to the minimum wage discussion and the mayoral campaign.
The Minnesota Restaurant Association proposed a carveout for tipped workers, who the lobbying organization argues often make more than $15 an hour already. Several servers and bartenders have backed that proposal.
Jennifer Schellenberg, a server at Red Rabbit who’s involved with Service Industry Staff for Change, a group lobbying for a tip carveout, said Bender, Quincy and Warsame’s position will damage her industry.
“I’m disappointed,” Schellenberg said. “The real tip penalty is the loss of our tips and our jobs with a minimum wage that doesn’t recognize tips as income.”
But no mayoral candidates are backing a tip carveout. Hodges, Nekima Levy-Pounds and Raymond Dehn oppose it, and Council Member Jacob Frey and Tom Hoch say they will wait until city staff present a report on the listening sessions in May before they take a position.
The City Council will likely decide the matter before the election, and a slate of council challengers from the left is pushing incumbents to support a $15 minimum wage with no exceptions, which is why vote-counting on the council matters.
“No one should work full-time and still not be able to make ends meet,” Bender, who is running unopposed for re-election in the Tenth Ward, said in a statement. “Creating a two-tiered income system in Minneapolis hurts workers and that is why I support building upon, not reversing, our state’s one fair wage.”
Quincy, who has two challengers in the Eleventh Ward, said, “I agree with our partners in the Minnesota Legislature that our minimum wage should include tipped workers.”
State legislators have so far resisted pressure to create a two-tiered minimum wage.
The announcement was not surprising coming from Quincy and Bender. Quincy is a staunch ally to Hodges, and Bender is a leading member of the City Council’s progressive wing.
Warsame, however, is a swing vote on the council. He said residents asked him constantly in the run-up to the caucuses what his position was, and when he said he was deliberating, he could tell that wasn’t enough for people in his ward.
“This is the biggest issue that came across in the caucus,” Warsame said. “I think this is an important step.”