Monday, July 05, 2010

Emmer: Food Service Workers Make Too Much Money

Tom Emmer's got work to do. Even on a federal holiday, he's busy explaining how his agenda of Freedom(TM) and Prosperity will lift all boats. Unless you make minimum wage and tips. In that case, you make too much money. If Tom Emmer is elected Governor, he'll make sure that tipped food service workers get paid less! How's that for Freedom(TM) and Prosperity!

According to the AP, Emmer's idea for a "tip credit" came from a listening tour event at a St. Paul restaurant. It's pretty obvious who Emmer's listening to - and it's not working folks who actually serve the food at restaurants.

This is not a new obsession for Stonewall Emmer - he's repeatedly voted against increases in the minimum wage. And just so we're being clear here, it's not like there's a whole bunch of greedy servers and bartenders raking in the cash. According to 2009 figures from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, between August 2008 - July 2009, 22,000 Minnesota minimum wage food service workers received tips or commissions. Tom Emmer's proposal would allow employers to replace up to $5.12/hour of wages with a "tip credit," which basically means their employees would now make $5/hour less.

EDIT: MPR's story includes the following amazing Emmer quote:

"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," Emmer said.

Emmer said some well-tipped Eagle Street Grille employees are among those making more than $100,000 a year. But one of the grille's owners said only a "couple" of his 45 or so servers make that much in a good year.

In Tom Emmer's world, servers are well-off, and the owners are the downtrodden. Once you start from that premise, everything he says makes sense!

This logic is symptomatic of a delusion repeated endlessly by the right-wing during this economic downturn - the idea that wages (especially public sector wages) need to continue to go down in order for the economy to recover. American workers have suffered the most during this recession, through no fault of their own. Huge increases in productivity, coupled with belt-tightening measures targeting the number of employees and their wages have led to a recovery in corporate profits. When you hear the phrase "jobless recovery" what it means is "corporations have learned that they can make more money by having fewer employees and paying them less."

This recession was not caused by workers making too much money, and it will not be ended by paying workers less. In fact, it will not end until there are more jobs that pay more money - such is the reality of an economy dominated by consumption. But listening to guys like Tom Emmer, you'd think it was greedy minimum wage workers who brought this economy down. This story is exactly backwards - U.S. average wage growth controlled for inflation has remained virtually flat since 1979, and nearly all of the increase has gone to the top 15% of earners. That's Freedom(TM) for Tom Emmer - the Freedom(TM) to cut $5.00/hour off the paychecks of 22,000 working Minnesotans. Emmer must really have it in for food service workers, what with this proposal, his opposition to health care reform, and his endorsement by groups that favor repealing the smoking ban.

For a more profane version of this argument (with the warning that this clip from "Reservoir Dogs" is obviously NSFW,) just substitute Tom Emmer for Mr. Pink. For the record, I'm with Harvey Keitel on this one.

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