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Republican candidate for governor goes after tipped employees

Tom Emmer girds for overpaid waiter reaction

By Hart Van Denburg, Fri., Jul. 9 2010 @ 7:45AM

Waiters and waitresses around the state were startled to learn the other day that Republican candidate for governor Tom Emmer thought they were overpaid, after hearing about a very few servers at a St. Paul resto who reportedly make more than $100,000 a year.

Emmer managed to generalize that out-of-the-ballpark outlier stat to all servers in the state: He wants restaurant owners to be able to pay their wait staff a baseline sub-minimum wage.

Here’s the quote that got him in trouble:

“With the tips that they get to take home, there 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.”

Make it up in tips, he told servers — as if tips represent predictable income.

Read the rest of this blog post here:

The interesting thing is that Tom Emmer is a lawyer.  The “average” wage for lawyers nationwide is $110,590 according to the Bureau of labor Statistics. The average wage for a waiter in Minnesota is $ $22,730. Nationwide, t’s about $18,000 average. This is due to the higher “minimum wage” allowed to be paid in Minnesota verses some parts of the country – a whopping $6.15 for restaurants that gross over $675,000, which is probably the vast majority of restaurants in the states. Mr. Emmer should note that this is still under the national minimum wage.

Now, I hear you saying, “What’s the big deal?” Of course lawyers should average $110,000 because they have to graduate from a college or university as well as go to an expensive law school. I agree. And yet, there are many lawyers who make less than that. Public defenders and criminal defense lawyers can make less. In fact, according to, the average is $74,000 and someone who comments about this figure at this site notes that the figure drops when you consider the net income. You might consider those roughly analagous to beginning waiters or waiters  who work in places that allow them to earn close to the average. In my experience, most waiters make around $25 – 30k once they get established. Some who work in more exclusive restaurants make $40k – 100k, but 100k is extremely rare. The norm is more like $40k – 60k and this is still a very small percentage of the workforce. In my city, for instance, there are probably 10 or less restaurants out of about 600 where most of the waiters can earn that kind of money. there are probably another 20 where the top producers can reach those levels and that might be one or two popular waiters with lots of call parties.

There are many lawyers who make far more than $100,000 though. Lots  more. I daresay that there are a lot of lawyers who make $200,000 – $500,000 per year, far more than the relative handful of waiters in Minnesota that make $100,000. Ibn fact, there are quite a few lawyers who make $1,000,000+, which would be the equivalent of a waiter making a million a year. I can guarantee that there are exaxtly ZERO waiters who make $1,000,000/yr waiting tables.

So, by using Emmer’s logic, we should create a statute limiting the amount that a lawyer can charge per hour or the percentage that a lawyer can get from a successful civil suit, right?

It’s funny how Republicans talk about people lifting themselves up by their bootstraps but are quick to take the bootstraps away.

Emmer looks at a handful of waiters in St. Paul in an exclusive restaurant (the equivalent of a successful private practice lawyer) and extrapolates that to every meat and three in the state (the equivalent to the humble public defender). What ever happened to encouraging the American dream by encourage people to move up in their careers (this isn’t to say that lawyers should only chase the dollar, but accept that just as there’s a need for waiters to work in cafes and meat and threes, there’s a need for public defenders, but public defenders whould have the right to move up dollar-wise if they so choose and they shouldn’t be hamstrung by being spotlighted as “drags on the system”).

Minnesota waiters should look at the blog post and note that he’s holding a town hall meeting about this issue on Wednesday of next week. Details can be found in the post. I just wonder how many waiters will be able to get off of their dinner shifts to attend the 4:30 meeting.

He looks just as you might expect, doesn’t he?

PS, I have friends who are Republicans who don’t ascribe to the idea that you need to cripple workers’ wages in order for business to succeed. So, my comment about Republicans shouldn’t be taken as anything other than a generalization. I also know Democrats who pander to big business so there’s that too.


5 responses to “Republican candidate for governor goes after tipped employees

  1. tipsfortips July 10, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I just posted on this guy as well. I took him on in a slightly different way. Pointing out that the restaurant owner he quoted for the $100k stat denies ever saying that. Emmer tried to defend his position by rolling out the same old tired Univ of Nebraska study politicians and the NRA have been citing for years. Based upon stats from 1999 and with incredibly flawed premises like servers will search for jobs nationally. I think I knocked it out pretty well. Also a fun video for sharing that I threw together last night.

    We all need to help spread the word. They tried this years ago in my state. They may be coming for your state next. Until we unite to sound the alarm, they will continue to try to pass this stuff under the radar.

    Here is my post:

  2. Tim July 10, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    I, any many others I know, will quit their jobs in a heart beat if they were to only receive tips plus $2.13/hour. Most tipped employees I know only make up to $40,000/year. And I only know 1 person that makes that $40,000/year, most make a lot less. I my self can make more at the local McDonald’s at the $8.35/hour they start at, then I can with my tips plus $2.13/hour. And no this is not an exaggeration I have sat down and figured it out.

    • Wendy July 12, 2010 at 11:05 pm

      I already make $2.13/hr plus tips in Kentucky.. I don’t really get to see that wage though, it all goes to taxes. So really, I just make tips.

  3. Marta Daniels July 13, 2010 at 9:01 am

    This whole thing was ludicrous, and this guy is insane! I’m in one of those states where you get $2.65 an hour plus tips which only has to add up to minimum wage, plus we have to pay out tip share to bartenders and hosts and whatnot. If we don’t hustle,we get screwed. It’s hard out here for a server, but if you’ve been doing it all your adult life, well, its all you know.

  4. Pingback: GOP Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer pisses off the gays as well as tipped employees « So You Want To Be A Waiter

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