Minnesota Restaurant Wages: What Workers Face
Kris Jacobs, JOBS NOW Coalition
Star Tribune—Letters, April 4, 2012
View published version at www.startribune.com
Last week, the lobbyist for Minnesota's restaurant industry invoked memories of rural Main Street Ma-and-Pa cafés to push a cap and freeze on the wages of their tipped workers.
Servers are mostly adult women. They need their wages and work hard for their tips by making the employer look good. The Restaurant Association would single these workers out, denying them the basic right of a minimum-wage hike, should it ever rise again.
Servers need increases. To meet her family's basic needs, a single parent with one child in Greater Minnesota working for the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would have to work 93 hours a week.
Outstate restaurants are not suffering more than other businesses. Job openings there in the food preparation and serving occupational group climbed 46 percent in the most recent vacancy survey; the figure is now higher than it was before the onset of the Great Recession.
From the point of view of Greater Minnesota workers, what's not rising is the share of good paying full-time jobs to offset the preponderance of low-paying, part-time, no-benefit jobs: According to the most recent Job Vacancy Survey for Greater Minnesota, there are 77,000 job seekers competing for 11,000 full-time job openings.
Unfortunately, since the early 1980s, politicians have made a political football out of the minimum wage rather than matching it to inflation. In this way, a low minimum wage becomes a government subsidy for businesses who don't even need it and a hardship for working families who need a living wage. For this reason, the Main Street Restaurant Wage is a nonstarter.
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