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Emmer's minimum-wage fallout: Who makes $100,000 as a waiter or bartender?

Before quitting your current job and rushing off to grab one of those $100,000-a-year careers as a restaurant waiter or bartender, you might want to take a deep breath and look at some numbers.

Tom Emmer, the Republican Party's endorsed candidate for governor, raised the issue of $100,000-a-year servers Monday at the Eagle Street Grill, a hot spot when there's an event at the Xcel Center. Emmer, who believes that minimum wage workers who receive tips should have their minimum hourly wages reduced, said that the owner of the Eagle Street Grill told him that three of the restaurant's servers are taking home more than $100,000 a year.

Not surprisingly, Emmer's contention raised eyebrows among DFL gubernatorial candidates and those familiar with the financial realities of food and beverage servers.

"I think I'll quit my job and grab one of those,'' said Nancy Goldman, president of Local 17 of UNITE HERE, which represents about 600 food and beverage servers, mostly in Twin Cities and Rochester. "I want to know where the hell those jobs are. I think we're going to be getting a lot of calls from our people today wondering why they aren't making anywhere close to $100,000.''


Indeed, if those $100,000 a year servers are receiving 20 percent tips, it means they're dishing out $500,000 in food and beverages.

Goldman alternately laughed incredulously and sputtered with indignation when she considered the $100,000-a-year server.

"I suppose it is possible, just possible, that at a very few places you could have a server making serious money,'' she said. "But that almost means that the owner of the restaurant is doing very, very well because he's selling a helluva lot of food.''

Median wage for waiters and waitresses
Wage stats from Minnesota's Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) indicate that those $100,000 servers are the rarest of people.

The median wage for the 45,000 waiters and waitresses in the state is $9.36 an hour, including tips, meaning that if a server is working full time, he or she could make a little more than $19,000 a year. In the Twin Cities, servers do a little better — the median hourly wage is $10.57. But the waiter in southwestern Minnesota is being paid less than $8 an hour, including tips, according to the state's statistics.

Tom Emmer
MinnPost/Terry Gydesen
Tom Emmer

These numbers are better than the national average, but certainly not high enough to keep a family out of poverty and, of course, not anywhere near that $100,000 number Emmer was talking about.

"What part of lousy doesn't he understand?'' said Kris Jacobs, executive director of the JOBS NOW Coalition, which advocates for sustainable wage jobs. "Emmer is as deaf to reality as anyone I've known. ... Rich waitresses! Can you imagine believing that?''

But Emmer is making the point that federal law allows states to drop the minimum wage to $2.13 an hour for those making more than $30 a month in gratuities. Minnesota is among the few states that doesn't allow that adjustment, meaning that at small restaurants, with low gross revenues, employers must pay the prevailing minimum wage of $5.25 an hour. At larger establishments, with higher grosses, the minimum is $6.15.

Emmer says that because Minnesota doesn't adjust the minimum wage to reflect tips, consumers in the state pay more when they go out to eat. In fact, DEED stats show that Minnesota servers receive about $1 an hour more than servers nationally.

It should be noted that the DEED numbers are dramatically lower than the numbers being cited by Emmer on Monday. He said that a Hospitality Minnesota survey of restaurant owners in 2008 showed that servers make an average of $15.43 an hour, plus gratuities.

But any way you cut it, outside a handful of workers at a handful of pricey establishments, $100,000 a year for a server isn't even in the realm of imagination.

Other benefits
Wade Luneburg, secretary treasurer of Local 17, said that only a small fraction of servers receive any extra benefits, such as health care coverage.

"I guess the good news is that those $100,000-a-year workers he's talking about can afford their own health coverage,'' Luneburg said.

Once upon a time, there was a hidden perk to those making a portion of their income on tips. They could easily under-report the amount they were making on gratuities to the IRS.

"The idea of workers taking home a bundle of cash and not reporting is bull,'' he said. "More than 80 per cent of the people who go to a restaurant pay with plastic now.''

It should be noted that Local 17 has endorsed Margaret Anderson Kelliher for governor. She blasted Emmer's suggestion that there should be a minimum wage adjustment, as did her primary opponents Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (57)

Mr. Emmer apparently believes that any press is good press, so long as you spell his name right. (Or that he had no shot at the labor vote to begin with.)

The quote from Kris Jacobs says it all: "Emmer is as deaf to reality as anyone I've known. ... Rich waitresses! Can you imagine believing that?"

Wow. Just ... wow.

Emmer really just doesn't get it.

If, as the article states, the owner said three of the servers at the Eagle Street Grill are taking home $100,000/year, perhaps the IRS should take a look at the reported revenues of the Eagle Street Grill. Didn't anyone bother to ask the Eagle Street Grill owner who those fabulously wealthy servers were? Or ask some of the other servers at the Grill who among their coworkers was in the six-figure waitstaff category?

One source is missing from this piece. I'd be interested in what the owner of the Eagle Street Grill has to say.

It's not hard to imagine waiters earning 100 Grand a year. They could be working for a restaurant that is laundering money for the mob. They could also be serving more than food. Maybe, that's what Mr. Emmer had in mind. I'm just trying to help him out here; the man has obviously been living in an alternate universe for some time.

It would be interesting to find out whether Eagle Street is paying the employer portion of the payroll taxes on those tips.

Two quick comments. First, how the hell would anyone know what a person actually "makes" without examining their income tax return? Has Emmer seen it -- or even the owner of the Eagle St Grill. I doubt that.

Secondly, I always had the impression the GOP wants to STRENGTHEN the middle class. Isn't that what is happening here? Why should Emmer care what occupation brings in a tidy income? The only explanation is that he has sided with the Restaurant Association who wants to keep employee wages down! Well, that again confirms where Emmer's intrests lie.

$2.13/hour pay allowable if you make $30/month in tips?

If you figure 160 hours of work in a month and divide that into that $30, it works up to a fabulous $0.17 per hour.

So getting that $0.17 cents an hour in tips permits the drop from $5.25 or $6.15 to $2.13 per hour?

Pretty crappy, if you do the math!!

By the way, isn't the spirit of capitalism supposed to reward you for your good, hard work? If, just IF, $100,000 in tips were possible, isn't that the same just reward for a job well done as the $100 million in bonuses for UHG's CEO?

$500,000 to $1,000,000 per server in food sales is doing damn well for the owner of the restaurant!! That is $2000 to $4000 per night per server in 5 days a week!! $500 to $1000 per hour in a four hour dinner service!!

What a pile of crap.

Average Bartender salaries for job postings in Minnesota: $67,000

*Average salaries*, not counting gratuities.

http://www.indeed.com/salary/q-Bartender-l-Minnesota.html

From the government stats:

(quote)

In May 2008, median hourly wages (including tips) of waiters and waitresses were $8.01. The middle 50 percent earned between $7.32 and $10.35. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $6.73, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $14.26 an hour. For most waiters and waitresses, higher earnings are primarily the result of receiving more in tips rather than higher hourly wages. Tips usually average between 10 percent and 20 percent of guests' checks; waiters and waitresses working in busy or expensive restaurants earn the most.

Bartenders had median hourly wages (including tips) of $8.54. The middle 50 percent earned between $7.53 and $10.98. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.00, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $14.93 an hour. Like waiters and waitresses, bartenders employed in public bars may receive more than half of their earnings as tips. Service bartenders often are paid higher hourly wages to offset their lower tip earnings.

(end quote)

http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos162.htm

Keep it up, Mr. Emmer! He's revealing himself for the nut case that he is, or reinforcing that impression. I just had a phone conversation with my youngest daughter, a server at a successful restaurant, who's very close to finishing a master's degree in psychology. She's asking for financial help this month because her earnings won't cover her rent and the student-loan payments that are already starting. She said the era of underreporting tips is past, by the way. She and her colleagues pay taxes on every penny of their tips, most of which are left through credit and debit cards.

I love it when Mr. Swift provides back up for his comments. So...I went to the site he cites (love that verbage), and it shows:

Bartenders in Minnesota earn $31,000/year. that, I believe!

The very same page of the very same web site says:

* Bartender in Minnesota -- $41,000
* Bartender server in Minnesota -- $37,000
* Bartender trainee in Minnesota -- $45,000

And if one follows the link connected with the $67,000 average figure, one sees salary estimate figures of $20,000+ [54 postings]; $40,000+ [3 postings] ... and nothing more.

Confusing information source.

Confusing?

Mr. Swift cites a salary of $67,000 for bartenders. Yet that same website shows a graph with figures ranging from only $41,000-$19,000 per year for these positions. The government stats quoted by Mr. Rovick seem much more plausible.

...didn't even bother checking Swift's link ... knew it was baloney.

Leave it to Swift to sell his bull as real information. If bartenders really made 67K PLUS tips why would anyone bother with an engineering degree or any other degree. I imagine that 67K bartender must make pretty good tips and so earning over 100k. Maybe we need to rein in per diems for Minnesota legislators because Emmer is eating at places way beyond the means of this middle class tax payer. I get it, when people call him Swift, they are being sarcastic.

To make $100,000 a year as a server, you would have to make $50 a hour -- every hour -- of full-time employement. I have no trouble believing that some servers, for a few hours on Friday and Saturday nights, are earning that kind of money in nice restaturants -- maybe even double that. But that is like 6 hours a week. I doubt very much that they pull in $40 an hour the rest of the week and $100 an hour for six hours a week. Those numbers JUST DON'T WORK.

If Emmer is this bad with numbers, no wonder he thinks he can cut 20 percent of current state funding. I don't think he knows what that means.

If Emmer had said this a month before the election, he would be toast. Unfortunately, he has time to recover.

At least we now know how he'll cut taxes: cut wages so we have lees income to tax!

I don't know why Emmer's comments would surprise anyone. Isn't it the Repub mantra to side with business owners (and/or the wealthy) over workers every time? Of course they like to claim that this really helps the workers by providing more jobs. They just don't seem to understand that no one wants, or could live on, a $2.13/hr. job.

But this is all good! The Repubs keep handing the Dems votes every time they open their mouths. The Senate Republicans just handed the Dems 1.5 million votes by blocking the extension of unemployment benefits, and Emmer just guaranteed that low wage workers will continue to vote Dem. If anyone can hand the 6th District to the Dems, it would be Bachmann and her crazed ramblings. Keep talking, Repubs! Please!

Holy smokes, I suspect Emmer's going to find out just how much a food taster earns in Minnesota (according to Swift's resource it's US$27,000).

The sad thing and none of you have commented on this is the untold visceral fear and anxiety that Emmer produces with comments like this.

//Secondly, I always had the impression the GOP wants to STRENGTHEN the middle class.

That's where you went wrong my friend. The GOP has only been interested in strengthening the upper class, since that will raise all the boats don't ya know.

There's another thing that's being illustrated here, the extent to which business and business information cannot be trusted, and the GOP tendency to simply regurgitate whatever business lobbies tell them uncritically. You get the same kind of wacky numbers and weird statements from industry groups, chambers of commerce, etc. all the time. This is why they're such huge supporters of the GOP.

And of course this kind of thing only confirms yet again the fundamental fact that Emmer has no sense of integrity... because he's a megalomaniac.

I guess there's a lot of problems getting illustrated here. A number of people have been asking whether or not anyone asked the restaurant owner who these $100,000 a year were. Of course not, what I saw on TV was stenography reporting, here's what Emmer said. While it's nice to see the papers go into some detail the next day, it wasn't impossible to have asked a couple basic questions yesterday. But hey, what's a little detailed reporting on a gubernatorial candidate when there's a map of dew points cued up for the next segment.

This is the best joke I've heard all week!

"In the Twin Cities, servers do a little better — the median hourly wage is $10.57"

Even with the increased use in credit cards, I'd say at best, 30% of tips are reported. I have friends that bartend and they report much less.

As Emmer peaks and self-destructs I'm getting a good look from people who would surprise you.
Watch me come on like Whirlaway. Who?
Leslie Davis for Governor 2010. Go me!
www.LeslieDavis.org
612/522-9433

I think people are missing the point.

Employers are still required to pay minimum wage. They just get to count money from tips (over the lower minimum wage) in meeting the normal minimum for other employees.

What that means is the first $4 or so of the tips customers' leave each hour go to the restaurant. Only after that, do the server's get any more money.

Now its possible, the restaurant will use the tip money to lower prices. But those tips are voluntary. You can always leave the server a smaller tip if you want to save money.

If the restaurant wants a tip, they should put it on the bill. Not take it surreptitiously from the money customers left for servers. When I leave a big tip, I have a right to know it is going to the person who served me.

As someone who waited tables for many years in various restaurants (fancy and not-so-fancy), I can say that I never made more than $100-$150 or so a night (more like $50 most times). Granted, this was in the 1980s and 90s but if one figures working five shifts a week for fifty weeks a year, that would mean you'd have to bring in $400 per to make it to the 100K. McCormick and Schmick's? Maybe, but doubtful. Denny's? You'd have to sell a hell of a lot of Moon Over My Hammies to get to those numbers.

Mr. Emmer can be excused though as the Republican elites have never been all that interested in or knowledgeable about the common waitron and their lot, unless that waitron is slow to bring the next gin fizz.

Politicians these days are so, er, competent. Imagine, with competence of the type Emmer has displayed on the waitress/waiter wage issue, imagine how well he would do managing the budget for things like bridges and state safety. Emmer is supported by the madam of Minnesota bridges, Carol Molnau, who was also overflowing with competence.

I am sure that everyone here can see in advance what a fine state Minnesota would be of Emmer and his supporters took over the bureaucracy. Oh, sure.

So if you - a truly rare waiter - serve enough pricey food and drink to earn $100K as a food server, Mr. Emmer thinks you make too much money and you should take a pay cut.

Does that also apply to restaurant owners who make more than $100k/year? How about Wall Street market manipulators, some of whom make more than $100k in a single deal?

Or is is just those of us who sweat when we work, we're the ones making too much money according to Mr. Emmer?

Please let us know, Mr. Emmer, who are the deserving high-income people and who are the undeserving thieves who need a pay cut ....

.... not surprised that there is a web site that provides a datum or two to support Mr. Swift's view. When the overwhelming evidence from credible sources suggest that the vast majority of servers get 1/2 or 1/3 of that phat $100k, don't expect that aspect of the truth to gain any traction among conservative conversationalists

"This boat is leaking," said Tom balefully.

I think Emmer was confused. The only "servers" making annual tips in the $100,000 range are lap dancers and poll dancers.

Wow,

lets just extend the logic here...

Some waiters make 100k a year (allegedly), so their minimum wages needs to be reduced to $2.13 per hour.

Then since some CEO's make 100 million a year, the general minimum wage needs to be reduced to $.00213/hour?

So my question then Tom would be are you in favor of removing the minimum wage all-together?

Actually I made 100 thousand a year as a waiter but I enjoyed being outside. So I took a job with the Startribune as an independent contractor. I got to work in pitch black conditions with freezing winds, rain, lightning, hail and I was so much happier. I didn't miss the six figure salary at all. Tom speaks for many of us, freedom first!

It might be an interesting story if some of the bartenders and servers @ Baja Sol Grill & Cantina, (owned by the State Chair of the GOP, Tony Sutton) were to be interviewed for their perspective on Rep Emmer's latest idea.

Interesting that Emmer would spawn this sort of debate after eating at such an establishment. Its quite a reactionary move and not proper for someone who wishes to lead the state as its Chief Executive.

Furthermore I would add that as someone who has been a server and several different resaurants, $100K per year is laughable. It has been my experience that 30K-40K for experienced servers/bartenders is common, though newer servers don't commonly come into that category.

The important thing to remember when tipping is to do so based upon merit. Excellent servers who take their jobs seriously and work-hard deserve a better tip than those who don't, just like those in other industries who get merit-raises based upon job performance. Since serving/bartending is the typical "tipped" occupation, bartenders/servers don't get merit-raises on top of the minimum wage. The prevailing joke has always been that a server/bartender only gets a raise by an act of Congress. Higher tips based upon merit is the only way a server/bartender can essentially "earn" a raise. If the GOP line is opportunity based upon merit, then servers/bartenders are the embodiment of a such a belief everyday.

Ha ha! to the "poll dancer" typo. I don't
know if it includes political pollsters,
but Survey Researchers for MN top out
at $76,300 (10% more, 90% less), median at
$54,000, and low at $30,200 (10% less, 90% more). Actually better pay for the middle and low scale in MN than nationally. Market
Research Analysts do much better from
$108,300 - $69,300 - $43,900.
Source: http://www.careeronestop.org/SalariesBenefits/

Political Scientists (no MN data posted)
range from $47,200 (low), $104,100 (median),
$146,900 (high) annually.

Once again maybe Emmer is using the Karl Rove playbook. Except now he is telling incredible lies rather than credible ones. Later on he portray Dayton as some wild eyed liberal for opposing the Bush tax cuts and costly foreign wars (which in reality are fiscally conservative positions).

IS EVERYTHING OKAY,SIR?

"Emmer party of one."

"It's the only table available sir..aren't you Repub gov wannabe?... and yes, use the HIS not the HERS...so if you need it in a hurry, convenient,eh?"

"Ice water? Sorry we're out but tap water's pretty cool."

"We'll get back to you as soon as possible...gotta a party of ten ahead of you. DFLers celebrating something."

If Emmer and his buddies see the price of restaurant food tied to high wages/tips for servers, why don't they see the high cost of health insurance tied to high wages/bonuses of health insurance CEOs? Maybe Swift would have a facile answer for that. We haven't heard from him on this thread since he put his foot in his mouth way back at comment #9.

I thought Mr. Emmer WANTED states to be able to opt out of federal law. That's exactly what Minnesota has done with the tip penalty. Just sayin'.

It’s interesting that Emmer made his statements from the Eagle Street Grill, a restaurant with a 30’s gangster theme. Diners at the Grill can chose from such items as the “Burglar”, “Sawed Off Shotgun”, and “Bootlegger”.

How many wait staff are even provided health care benefits? What Emmer doesn't even think about is that these people are paying for their own health care out of what they make without any assistance from their employer. Could he afford to do that on whay they make? Could he even afford to take care of his family's needs based on what they make?

After viewing, reviewing, vetting and chewing on the over 40 comments made on this story, there is one overriding positive note to point out. The opinions posted run about 40 to 1 AGAINST Emmer's position. That,in itself, gives Minnesotans some hope that we will emerge from this "no tax" nonesense, and see brighter days and better governance restored to our fair state.

One can only hope...and VOTE!

"The opinions posted run about 40 to 1 AGAINST Emmer's position."

You mean the opinions MinnPost censors passed were 40 to 1 AGAINST Emmer. You're being spoon fed pablum, Myles; how do you like it?

The only logical incentive to lower the minimum wage for servers is to encourage hiring even more undocumented workers. Emmer is selling out American jobs!

# 39 ...re Swift - He's probably in Arizona; that's where disgruntled republicans from Minnesota go in search of carrion. But he could also be right here seething at the wrong turn of events caused by the dolt Emmer!

# 39 ...re Swift - Whenever I become the topic, I'm always excluded from the conversation by the censors until the unhinged rage burns itself out.

That might seem unfair, but 1 common sense conservative against 40 scary smart, reality based ranters seems about even to me.

Tom - between yesterday and today, I count 25 published comments from you on MinnPost. So as censors go, we're pretty bad.

# 47 - Interesting mixup!

I thought Tom Emmer was the topic ...(not Tom Swift.)

Yeah, J.J. It's funny how that happens, and how often.

Like I said, David; I'm not complaining. One hand tied behind my back; no problem.

Swift - Emmer, it's all the same, silly comments free of verifiable facts. Emmer says some servers make 100K, Swift says the average is 67K. Now Swift cries censorship, similar to how Emmer, Palin, et al, say "the American People" won't stand for this or that that Obama may be pushing despite the fact that "the American People" elected him president. I like having Swift here; he is so easy to refute and so fun to refute, especially when he congratulates himself on being some kind of conservative hero.

To quote the wise anonymous: "When all is said and done, there's more said than done."

But one thing is certain. This "ideas" man, Tom Emmer, hasn't said or done anything of value politically so far, it seems. He has a very high "dolt" factor!

Hmm! Eagle Street Bar has a mobster theme. http://eaglestreetgrille.net/

On a more serious note it is located directly across from the Excel Center. If a senior waiter/bartender was able to schedule work around the Xcel events along with a post work "happy hour" work schedule the 100K might be possible.

It is a long shot and probably a rarity. The more blue collar bars were hurt by the smoking ban all have been strongly affected by the economic downturn.

This guy makes Joe Biden look like Mr. Rogers.

id like to know if mr emmer has ever been up in northrean mn. and taken a look at our tips exc.farther away from the cities less tips are given, not every person tips, id say abot 70% of people tip, have u mr emmer been to a casino and tip a server on the gaming floor? and a casino that dont sell liquor, servers recive less tips, and most of our younger generation do not tip, ya gonna train everyone to tip? how would ya do that. if severs wage is cut , ya gonna find it very hard to finde anyone that whonts to be a sever, i guess ya have to get your own drinkcost and food . most of use are one pay check, from being out on the street, we that work hard for our money should be able to enjoy it,

I figured Mr. Swift would be on the Horner bandwagon by now. Swift actually was a candidate for St. Paul School board at one time. Lets hope the Emmer candidacy holds down GOP turn out allowing a progressive victory this fall.

AA month or two a fiction writer got $45K for an afternoon "free" talk. Also if you go to art-fairs you will see a lot of art with three and four figure price tags.

That said, it is generally accepted that under two percent of the "artists" made a full time living via "creative" activities.

Note that Tom Emmer said that he was told "two or three" at the Eagle had the "potential" to make $100K. This would likely be very fast bartenders working during Xcel Center events.

Somehow I don't envision a lot of people going in for a "dining adventure" at the Eagle right before after a MN Wild hockey game.

Emmer's comments were inappropriate not because he stated something inaccurate but instead that it was interpreted at the norm.