ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) – Lawmakers worked late into the night Monday to pass a bill that would keep some Minnesota workers from getting a pay raise this summer.
The House passed a bill 78 to 55 late Monday night that would allow employers to pay staff members the $8 hourly minimum wage if tips bring their pay above $12 an hour — even with the state's minimum wage set to increase up to $9.50 by 2016. Most Democrats voted against the bill.
That new minimum wage that takes effect Aug. 1 for everyone else is $9 an hour.
This is a highly debated issue.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the House on Monday afternoon, singing and chanting, "Protect the wage!" with signs deriding Rep. Pat Garofalo's bill as a "tip penalty." Garofalo, a Farmington Republican, and others defended his bill as a necessary step to protect restaurants from increasing labor costs. Garofalo has noted it wouldn't bring tipped workers' wages down to the hourly level in some other states — as low as $2.33 hourly in neighboring Wisconsin.
One restaurant owner told WCCO in February that the $1 hike last year cost him $27,000.
The consensus among most restaurant employers is that servers are already making a hefty amount of money from tips. Republican leaders said restaurant owners shouldn't have to pay them a higher minimum wage on top of that.
The plan would set a minimum wage of $8 an hour for servers who report wages and tips of $12 or more an hour during a two-week pay period.
Supporters say lowering the wage would preserve waiter jobs at restaurants that offer full table service.
On the other hand, critics call the bill "wage theft" and say freezing wages for waiters and waitresses will not make the state's economy stronger.
The bill, which is a top priority at the Capitol this year, now goes to the Senate.
Governor Mark Dayton has said he will not support it.
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