Minnesota state Rep. Tom Emmer, the presumptive Republican nominee for governor, made an interesting campaign stop over the weekend as part of his damage control efforts for having supported policies that would effectively lower the minimum wage for waiters: He became a “waiter for a day,” serving tables at a Mexican restaurant.
In the Emmer campaign’s Web video of the event, the Republican declared his solidarity with waiters against people who criticize them: “Some guy on the radio today was saying how it’s unskilled labor. I’ll tell you what. I dare him to try and carry a tray with 25 pounds of hot, steaming dishes on top of it, be able to know which ones they’re going to, be able to run back and pick up the next table and be smiling and happy for the third. You know, this is not an easy job, this is hard work, and the servers get exactly what they put into it. The good ones get rewarded very well. It’s just a good reminder, it’s not as if we didn’t know that. It’s just a good reminder — it’s good to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”
Last week, Emmer indicated his support for a policy known as a “tip credit.” Minnesota is one of seven states that do not permit employers to pay less than the standard minimum wage to tipped workers. Federal law permits tipped workers’ wages to be as low as $2.13 per hour, absent state regulation to the contrary, with tips given to workers credited against the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour employers are required to pay. Depending on implementation, a tip credit could lower the basic wage to anywhere between $2.13 and $7.25, plus tips.
What especially got Emmer in trouble was this claim: “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.”On Saturday, Emmer waited tables at the Ol’ Mexico restaurant in Roseville, Minnesota. Emmer’s trick of becoming a waiter for a day was probably a good move for several reasons. First, it helps him to restore his common-man image, which the tip-credit flap may have damaged. And second, becoming a waiter might just be the only way he could guarantee the safety of his own meals.
Emmer also lays out some loose proposals: Institute a tip credit on the one hand — but also make tips tax-free on the other, and also to not tax any complementary meals that employees are provided. Emmer closes the video on an energetic note. “I’ll tell you what, some of these folks that want to complain about that, they might want to join me for a couple hours here and sweat their tail off like I did–” he says, with music drowning out the final words as the video cuts to an “Emmer for Governor” blue screen.
Late Update: To be clear, Emmer shadowed a waitress, as he notes in the video itself. It is not definite just how long he spent at the event, though it should be noted that the video begins during daylight and ends in darkness.
Late Late Update: The Emmer campaign took down the old YouTube video, but also reposted it in a new version. It is not immediately clear what if any changes were made. The new version has been embedded in this post.
- -Hiring More Journalists
- -Providing free memberships to those who cannot afford them
- -Supporting independent, non-corporate journalism