Raising the minimum wage is important. The current state minimum wage of $6.15 makes Minnesota one of only four states with a minimum below the federal level. Being an outlier on the low end is not reflective of our Minnesota culture of respect with a focus on healthy families. When Minnesotans work full time while living in poverty it undermines our children, our families and the fabric of our communities.
As the Legislature considers raising the minimum wage to $9.50, one element of the discussion has been misunderstood and overlooked. There has been strong opposition to the new proposal from the restaurant industry. They have asked us to consider including a two-tier wage structure as part of the new wage plan. Unfortunately, their proposal is misunderstood by many.
This is not a “tip credit,” which would dramatically lower a server’s hourly wage. Rather, it is a formula that calculates the server’s hourly rate, including tips, over a two-week period. As proposed, for servers who in total make more than $12 per hour, their hourly wage during that two-week period would be $7.75. If their average wage was below $12 per hour the next two weeks, they would receive the $9.50 wage. I believe this is an equitable compromise, and other states have shown it to be effective.
No one who works full time should have to live in poverty. People working minimum-wage jobs should have the dignity of being able to provide for their families. Enacting the two-tier wage structure would make a real difference in bringing a broad coalition together to make this change.
Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, is a member of the Minnesota Senate.