Ignore the restaurant industry's recycled arguments.
Although neither of the minimum-wage bills pending in the Minnesota House and Senate has a provision that allows servers to be paid less than the minimum wage, you would never know it from restaurant industry exhortations. The Feb. 1 Business section commentary, “In the push for higher pay, don’t forget tips,” needs correcting.
Minnesota law bars the practice of paying servers less than the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, because labor standards have been higher here since 1986. Surrounding states have no such prohibition. Wisconsin pays $2.33, Iowa $4.35, North Dakota $4.86 and South Dakota $2.13.
In his commentary, a Minneapolis restaurant owner insisted that paying the minimum to wait staff “artificially puts downward pressure on kitchen wages” — an argument that gets recycled every year but is never supported by the facts. The notion is contradicted by wage data from surrounding states. For example, that a Wisconsin waitress earns $2.33 an hour, but kitchen workers still earn nearly $1 an hour less than Minnesota workers.
Minnesota legislators should understand that the real “artificial pressure” is coming from a handful of well-heeled lobbyists hired to exploit their advantages, lower our expectations and drop the higher standards that define our differences. Minnesotans value a workforce that is always at or near the top of every measure of labor force excellence. Let’s keep it that way.
Kris Jacobs is executive director of Jobs Now Coalition.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.