By Jeff Fecke | July 6, 2010
I never knew that the way to get rich in America was to become a waiter. I mean, sure, I suspected; waiters are always driving those sweet ’99 Hyundais, rolling with fat stacks of Washingtons, and spending holidays at their vacation homes in their regular homes. But still, it’s nice of Tom Emmer to come along to alert the rest of us to the dread scourge of waiters earning a living wage.
For those who’ve somehow missed it, Emmer has suggested that Minnesota should join those states that allow businesses to pay their servers $2.13 an hour if said servers make tips. Right now, Minnesota restaurants have to pay servers $5.25 if they’re a small employer, or $6.15 an hour if they’re a big one.
Now, you may note that $6.15 an hour isn’t that much. And you may realize that if you’re a typical Perkins server on a slow night, you may only be bringing in another three or four dollars per hour in additional tips. Indeed, if you live here on planet Earth, you’re probably not surprised to find out that, far from being the richest of the rich, the median server earns $9.36 an hour — about $19,000 a year. Of course, Emmer claims that waiters actually average $15.43 an hour, which is a bit better — $31,000 a year.
But Emmer is proposing a wage cut for waiters and bartenders equivalent to $8361.60 a year. Even using Emmer’s inflated statistics, that’s cutting a $31,000 a year salary to $22,638.40 — a 37 percent pay cut for people barely making a living wage. Using real statistics, the pay cut is even steeper — cutting wages 79 percent, from $19,000 a year to $10,638.40.
Why Emmer would want to cut someone’s wages by 79 percent — to literally drop servers below the poverty line — is simple. Servers aren’t rich. Restaurateurs aren’t all rich either, of course. But they’re a lot more likely to be rich than their employees. And Emmer cares very much about making the rich richer. If he has to do so by making the poor poorer, well, that’s a feature, not a bug.
Tom Emmer doesn’t mind snatching away basic protections from the working poor — from people working hard, five days a week, doing what they’re supposed to do. Indeed, he revels in it. Tom Emmer doesn’t care if you work hard. He only cares if you make a lot of money. If you don’t — no matter how hard you work — screw you.
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