I covered this issue in yesterday’s post, but have since ran across several interesting pieces of information I wanted to pass along.  MN Gov Nominee Tom Emmer said in a recent stop at the Eagle Street Grille that the owners had told him three of their employees were making over $100,000 a year as a result of being paid minimum wage.  Emmer’s solution was to implement a tip credit so employers could be relieved of the burden of having to pay such high wages.  Reading around through news accounts, talking to a couple politically knowledgeable friends, and doing some math led me to some insights I thought I would share.

Emmer has scheduled a stop on his listening tour at Ol’ Mexico Restaurante and Cantina in Roseville, MN on Wednesday.  His staff says they will not be screening the attendees.  He will inevitably cite the University of Nebraska study that he has already used on his website.  If anyone attending happens to be reading this, yesterday’s post dissects this study pretty well.  I would love to see him respond to the fact it uses data from 1999 or that the basic premise of the study is “if you don’t make enough as a server, you can change states.”  If you or anyone you know is near Roseville, this would be a great opportunity to stand up for the rest of us.

Emmer also contended in another speech that the city of Fargo, ND has more restaurants than neighboring Moorhead, MN in part because of the differences in wages.  A quick text to my favorite Minnesotan and former Moorhead resident revealed a bigger part of the equation.  Fargo is over twice as populated as Moorhead.  I can attest to this living a few blocks from the border of Kansas City, MO and Kansas City, KS.  The server wage is lower in KS, but there are far more restaurants on the MO side.  The reason: the population is several times larger.  Several of the largest restaurant districts in town are within a mile of the state line, but are located in the state with the higher wages.  The customer base has far more to do with where the restaurants are located than the wage.

I think the funniest part of the saga is the responses of the Eagle Street Grille owners, Kevin Geisen and Joe Kasel.  The article I linked to yesterday is a must read.  A reporter went into the restaurant to fill out an application for one of those $100k jobs.  A server named Kevin greeted him.  Kevin was actually one of the owners.  He was picking up tables as his partner Joe had to call the staff individually that morning to stave off a mutiny.  Kasel responded to Emmer’s statement by saying, “”I don’t want people thinking we have people making $100,000 a year here, because we don’t.” “No way, shape or form did I [tell Emmer] anyone made $100,000.”  That would sum up the story except one line still stands out. “In fact, Geisen said, ‘lobbyists’ who set up the Emmer appearance were on their way down to smooth things over and correct his quote”

Lobbyists?  I can see owners setting up an event like this for publicity or because they supported the candidate (although given the previous paragraph I am wondering if they still do).  Lobbyists set up this event?  Who would lobby to cut server wages?  Meet HOPAC the political action committee of the Minnesota Restaurant Association.  They make no secret of their desire to see server wages cut.  Even issuing this handy brief for legislatures on the issue.  I did a little looking and Casinos/Gaming and Food/Beverage are both in his top 10 contributors by industry.

I wanted to end this on a high note.  I found that some opposing candidates are speaking out against Emmer.  Minnesota has a slightly different political system than most states.  Instead of the standard Democrat Party, they have the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party or DFL for short.  Two DFL candidates have given great quotes in response to Emmer.  DFL candidate Matt Entenza offered to help ““by setting up a place where he can get some tips to help him figure out what Minnesotans need in these tough times because surely it isn’t lower wages.” Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Minnesota Speaker of the House and DFL Candidate to oppose Emmer, had this to say, “Clearly Tom Emmer is out of touch with the challenges facing hard-working families struggling in this economy.”  She is also proposing an increase to the state minimum wage.  The front-runner in the race and former United States Senator Mark Dayton has been eerily silent on the issue.  I have personally sent two emails to his office.  In all fairness it is a weekend, but I have been unable to find any record of him speaking out on the issue.

One final note on the issue.  The DFL has created a great website highlighting this issue.  It can be found at www.serversagainsttomemmer.com and has some great information.  It also includes some ways for Minnesotans to get involved.

Let me conclude again by making clear this is about servers and not politics.  This is not a post of me endorsing the DFL, but rather opposing a candidate who wants to cut the wages of my fellow servers.  This is not Republican bashing.  In fact, the two most server friendly Congressmen in Washington are both Republicans.  That is a post for another day though.  Keep spreading the word about Tom Emmer.  We need to make it clear that you cannot score cheap political points by attacking the people who serve your food.

UPDATE: While posting posting this on my Facebook fan page, I ran across a facebook group Let’s See Tom Emmer work for $2.13 plus tips!

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