EDINA, Minn. - As Minnesota lawmakers appear poised to increase the minimum wage this week, restaurant owners are hoping for one major exemption.
The Minnesota Restaurant Association is pushing lawmakers to exempt tipped workers, who already make more than minimum wage when tips are factored in.
"Our servers here, in a little family restaurant, earn 20 to 25 dollars an hour," says Dick Henke, owner of The Malt Shop in south Minneapolis. "Servers are some of the best paid people in the restaurant business."
DFL lawmakers announced a long-awaited agreement Monday that would increase Minnesota's minimum wage from $6.15 per hour to $9.50 per hour by 2016. The only exemptions would be for workers aged 16 to 17 and small businesses with revenue under $500,000. Minimum wage for those groups would rise to $7.75.
"It's about making sure that middle class families are secure and strong," announced MN House Speaker Paul Thissen.
Henke doesn't dispute the need for a minimum wage hike but believes there should be an exemption for tipped workers. Without it, he estimates his annual payroll costs will rise $25,000 per year forcing him to increase costs and possibly do away with table service altogether.
"This kind of a move puts a lot of pressure on us," says Henke. "I don't understand the thinking that goes behind it at the Capitol. These folks have never run a restaurant."
The Minnesota Restaurant Association will continue to push for a tipped worker exemption ahead of the House and Senate votes which are expected later this week.