You have to give Tom Emmer credit. When the presumptive Republican nominee for governor of Minnesota held a town hall meeting with waiters on Wednesday — as part of a damage control effort after he publicly complained that they were making over $100,000 per year in tips and hurting their employers — his campaign clearly was not screening the attendees.
TheÂ event Wednesday was supposed to last for an hour and a half. Instead, it ended a half-hour early, as the Star Tribune reports: “An hour later, he walked out after a bag of 2,000 pennies was dumped inches from his face by a man exclaiming, ‘I have a tip for you too, Emmer!’ as cascading pennies bounced in every direction and the crowd at a Roseville restaurant erupted into chaos.”
Emmer last week voiced his support for a policy known as a “tip credit,” which is used in 43 states but not in Minnesota, which allows employers to pay a lower minimum wage to waiters — as low as $2.13 per hour, depending on the implementation, by crediting their tips towards the $7.25 federal requirement. Emmer especially got himself in trouble when he said: “With the tips that they get to take home, there are some that are earning over $100,000 a year — more than the very people that are providing the jobs and investing not only their life savings but their family’s future. Something has to be done about that.”
Since then his damage control efforts have included waiting tables, and insisting that he does not want to cut wages at all, but would only institute a tip credit as part of a package that would raise the overall minimum wage while keeping tipped employees at the current level. (On the other hand, he also opposes raising the minimum wage, and in 2005 he introduced a proposal to abolish it entirely, calling it a “true form of socialism.”) His damage control has also included this town hall event — which like all the other attempts, he might have been better off never doing at all.
During the town hall meeting before a crowd of 200 people, Emmer fielded one tough question after another. For example, as our friends at The Uptake show here, one waiter opened by saying he only made $19 in tips at lunch that day, and then asked Emmer about his past proposal to abolish the minimum wage.
“Now I believe a minimum wage actually frustrates somebody’s ability to make more than the minimum wage,” Emmer said, which the crowd didn’t like. “You don’t have to agree with me on that — hey, please, I’ll be respectful of you all, and I ask in return is whether you disagree or not just give me a chance to tell you why.”
He further explained: “I believe that you, if you excel, you’re the best server in the house, you should be allowed to make more than the minimum wage. And if maybe you’re not the best, maybe you’re the weakest, maybe you should make a little bit less and be able to work your way up. I think it allows people to do better.” Again, the crowd didn’t like this.
He also bluntly admitted his error on the $100,000 claim: “By the way, on the $100,000 number, that was used as an — and I see you shaking your head. All I did was repeat what I was told by Joe the owner, who since has said, ‘No, no, he misunderstood me. I said there’s a possibility to make a hundred — you know what, that isn’t the point. It’s not the amount. The idea was not about, ‘Oh, servers are making too much money.’ I want servers to make as much money as they can. Okay?”
Here is another clip, of a waitress reading through news clips of Emmer’s statements, and yelling at Emmer that “I work damn hard for my money” before getting suddenly cut off by a ringing bell and Emmer’s official timekeeper:
Emmer responded: “Connie, you’ve absolutely, if you want to say it, put me in my place, if that’s what I said. So let’s get a couple of things straight. I never said cut your wages. (booing) Connie. Let me just do this again. Just because it’s written in the paper, alright, the headline said ‘Emmer proposes cutting minimum wage.’ I’m gonna tell you right now, that is totally false.”