NEWS DAY | Let them eat cake: Emmer advocates cutting food servers’ wages

How to end the recession? Start by cutting the wages of those overpaid waiters, says Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. Emmer said that Minnesota should factor tips into the hourly pay for minimum wage workers in restaurants and other gratuity-based jobs. Emmer wants Minnesota to take advantage of a federal provision that allows employers to pay tipped employees as little as $2.13 per hour. At the Eagle Street Grill in downtown St. Paul, Emmer said:

“With the tips that they get to take home, they are some people earning over $100,000 a year. More than the very people providing the jobs and investing not only their life savings but their families’ future.”

So in Emmer-world, waiters make more than the poor, beleaguered restaurant owners.

A slight reality check – The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average (mean) wage for waiters and waitresses in Minnesota is $22,730 annually. According to the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development, average hourly wages for restaurant workers in Minnesota:

• Food preparation and serving workers, including fast food – $8.78/hour

• Waiters and waitresses – $11.07/hour

• Bartenders – $9.11/hour

That compares to an average hourly wage of all employees in the private nonfarm sector of $22.53 in June, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Tweeters and bloggers commented:

@dbrauer: Thinking more about Emmer/tips story, campaign should hire food taster if candidate plans on eating out for the duration of the race.

Talking Points Memo: In a way, this particular Emmer proposal is quite notable in that it uses federal law as a floor, and seeks to standardize Minnesota with the rest of the country. Indeed, many of his other proposals have involved nullifying most federal laws, and taking Minnesota out of harmony with the rest of the country.

Bluestem Prairie: One of the best dating tips I ever received was to watch how a man treated wait staff and bartenders. That’s how he’d treat you after a few months into a relationship, my wise friend said. Experience soon taught me the merit of her advice.

Republicans in the Senate have an Emmer-like solution for unemployment – just cut off the benefits. The unemployment compensation benefit extension failed several times last week, both alone and in combination with other economic stimulus measures.

June’s official unemployment number was a seasonally-adjusted 9.5 percent. When discouraged workers, persons marginally attached to the labor force, those employed part time for economic reasons are added in, the number rises to 16.5 percent. The number of people who have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks is 6.75 million, and the average time that it takes to find work is 35.2 weeks.

In June, the national economy added 83,000 private-sector jobs – and lost 225,000 government jobs, as temporary census workers’ jobs ended. That leaves private-sector employment 7.9 million below the December 2007 level.

Congress left Washington for the 4th of July recess this week, and will return for a month before taking the rest of the summer (August 9-September 10) for the “Summer District Work Period.”

Congress will try again to pass the extension in mid-July, by which time two million unemployed workers will lose their runemployment compensatioin benefits.

All but one of the Democrats in the Senate supported an extension, along with only two Republicans – Maine’s Senators Olympia Snow and Susan Collins. Republicans voting against extension say they oppose it because of its impact on the deficit.

And what is the impact of ending unemployment compensation for long-term unemployed workers? Heather Boushey at the Center for American Progress explains:

There are 6.8 million workers who have been out of work and seeking a job for at least six months. These workers are losing their unemployment benefits right now due to the Senate’s inability to pass the necessary legislation. Without delay, unemployed workers need extended unemployment benefits, both for themselves and their families, and the broader economy.

The current number of long-term unemployed workers without benefits will drive down private sector hiring, drive up the federal deficit, and cost many currently employed Americans their jobs, too. There are no two ways about this: Without unemployment benefits, workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own will have no cash in their pockets, will not be able to go to their local grocer for food, and will have trouble paying their rent or mortgage.

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