Lawmakers consider lower minimum wage for tip earners

Minnesota lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow a lower minimum wage for some tipped employees.

The House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance committee held a lengthy hearing on the proposal today Monday and kept it in play for possible future action later this session.

Rep. Joe McDonald, R-Delano, said his bill would help restaurant owners and their employees.

“It’s about preserving their jobs, preserving their way of life,” McDonald said.

Under the bill, large employers could pay a lower base wage, if the worker’s combined wages and tips averaged more than $14 per hour. Small employers would have an average $12 per hour threshold for their workers.

Lori Luchsinger, a server at a St. Paul restaurant, told lawmakers that a two-tiered wage would help full-service restaurants stay in business.

“They simply won’t be able to absorb the cost of a one-tiered system and continue to provide the full dining experience that we all currently enjoy,” Luchsinger said.

Other workers oppose the bill.

Molly Thul, a restaurant server from Lonsdale, said she would lose money.

“If you add the tip penalty here in Minnesota you’ll be taking away from my family as well as other families just like mine,” Thul said.

Rep. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, had similar concerns. She argued that the bill would harm tipped workers by holding base wages at current levels.

“Freezing wages for people who are working in tipped jobs is not going to save our economy,” Maye Quade said.