House passes minimum wage curbs for some tipped workers

Published 9:15 am Tuesday, March 24, 2015

By Doug Belden

St. Paul, Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota House passed a bill late Monday night that would allow employers to pay a lower wage to workers who make more than $4 per hour in tips.

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The bill, which passed 78-55, represents an effort by the Republican-controlled House to blunt the minimum-wage increases passed last year by the Democratic Legislature and governor.

“This is a great bill,” said Rep. Dave Baker, a Republican restaurant owner from Willmar. Owners will be able to invest in their businesses, he said, and keep prices low so more customers come in. “Our employees will win because of this bill.”

Democrats disagreed.

“This is a bad idea for Minnesota,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, who carried the minimum-wage increase bill last year. “These are workers who deserve a break.” Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, called it a “tip-theft bill.”

The bill faces long odds in the DFL-controlled Senate and governor’s office.

“I don’t see it being considered as a bill in the Senate,” Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said Monday.

The companion bill in the Senate has had no committee hearings.

Gov. Mark Dayton called last year’s minimum-wage increase “one of the best things that Minnesota has done. It puts money in the pockets of those consumers all over the state.”

“I don’t see any reason to tamper with it,” he said.

Under the bill, employers could pay the current minimum wage of $8 per hour to workers who earn an average of at least $12 per hour in pay and tips during a work week.

Those workers would keep their tips as well.

Those not earning $12 or more in wages and tips would get the wage called for under the law, plus their tips.