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MPR cuts to the chase on Emmer, minimum wage

As the minimum-wage saga winds down, the issue isn’t what Tom Emmer said about server wages, it’s what he’d do. MPR reporter Tom Scheck found out.
By David Brauer

I spent a lot of bytes yesterday parsing whether Tom Emmer said he would cut tipped employees’ wages, and whether that was reported accurately. It engendered a pretty good debate between those who said some media jumped to conclusions, versus those who said reporters cut through the you-know-what.

Emmer kicked off Wednesday’s Ol’ Mexico server stand-off by declaring, “Somebody reported that last week I talked about cutting servers wages. I’m here to look everybody in the eye and tell you, I never said that. I would never say that. Nobody ever said we would want to cut anybody’s wages and, you would not do that in this enviroment. It is about raising wages, it’s about raising everybody up.”

OK. But I found myself wondering, “Would a Gov. Emmer sign a bill cutting the minimum wage?” After all, that’s the policy bottom line, and cuts through the fog of what-he-said and what-he-meant.

To the rescue: Minnesota Public Radio’s Tom Scheck. Here’s the segment from his Wednesday story on the Ol’ Mexico event:

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[Emmer] refused to tell reporters what he meant when he initially said a tip credit had to be considered.

But in a phone interview earlier this week he said he would cut the minimum wage if the Legislature approves.

“If somebody is going to pass that through the Legislature, we would absolutely sign it,” he said.

So there it is: Emmer never said he would cut anyone’s wages, but he would sign a bill doing just that.

The penny-pourer
One final sidelight: MPR’s Bob Collins wrote that when Arizona-immigration-law opponent Robert Erickson (real name: Nick Espinosa) dumped 2,000 pennies on Emmer’s table, “hijacked an event that was supposed to belong to the waiters and waitresses.”

Collins added, “Ironically, in his opposition to Emmer, [Espinosa] did the Republican nominee a big favor: He took the minimum wage issue off the table, and replaced it with the immigration issue, an issue that is right in Emmer’s political wheelhouse.”

(This was tangentially confirmed by the pro-GOP site Minnesota Democrats Exposed, which quickly put up two immigration posts.)

Curious how the local TV would treat Espinosa’s literally bright shiny objects, I checked how much the 6 p.m. reports devoted to penny-pouring and immigration, versus angry servers and the tip credit.

  • WCCO: 8 seconds of a 2-minute, 29-second report (plus anchor cross-talk)
  • KARE: 41 seconds out of 1:58
  • KSTP: 1:26 of 2:30

Who says there’s no media diversity?

On the text side, there was much more uniformity. The Star Tribune front-pager devoted four of 26 paragraphs to the penny incident; the Pioneer Press five of 29 (including AP photographer Jim Mone’s great photo); MPR four of 25; and MinnPost eight of 53. MinnPost was the only one that put most of its penny-pouring play near the top of its story.