Minnesota Restaurant Owners Propose ‘Tipped Employee Tier Policy’

Effort to Create Fair & Equal Workplaces in Minnesota Restaurants

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This plea was sent to Governor Mark Dayton Tuesday, with the goal to create fair and equal workplaces within the restaurant industry.

“The reason we’re here today is to convey a message to Governor Dayton and to the leaders of the House and Senate,” said Dan McElroy, Executive Vice President of the Minnesota Restaurant Association.

It’s a proposal the Minnesota Restaurant Association has been working on for about three years.

“I have people say ‘Well, isn’t that sort of the tip credit?’ Well, it’s a better idea than a tip credit,” said McElroy.

A motion to keep the minimum wage for servers and tipped employees at $8.00 an hour – the current rate – if they make at least $12 an hour with their wage and tips combined.

“Not doing so creates fairly serious irregularities or inequities between tipped employees and non–tipped employees,” McElroy explained.

This, in response to the upcoming increase in Minnesota’s minimum wage, which will be $9 an hour starting in August 2015, and $9.50 an hour in August 2016.

“On a normal day, about 50 percent of our staff are tipped employees,” said Lucas Dean, a Grandma’s employee.

Some Duluth restaurant operators are on board.

“This tiered wage is really going to help all of us, it’s going to allow these servers to keep their jobs,” said Carol Valentini of Valentini’s Vicino Lago.

Dean is a bartender and server at Grandma’s.

“I’m somebody that relies on tips for a living,” he explained.

He too, supports this plan.

“We keep giving our highest-paid employees raises, that doesn’t even create the ability to give the hardworking, non–tipped employees a raise,” Dean added.

The fear is the increase in labor costs will force restaurants to cut servers’ hours.

“The cost increases of many kinds are making it very difficult for the smaller local restaurants and chains to continue being full service restaurants,” explained Tony Boen, Regional Manager of Grandma’s Restaurant Company.

The hope is to increase the pay of non–tipped employees.

“That includes line cooks, prep cooks, dishwashers, janitors, your hosts,” Boen explained.

And to eliminate any and all workplace inequalities.

Whether or not servers make $12 an hour will be determined on a week to week basis.

If there is a week where the servers make under $12 an hour, including tips, for any reason, they will then get paid at either the $9 per hour or $9.50 per hour rate.

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