A restaurant industry group that argues any rise in the minimum wage in Minneapolis should exempt tipped workers released a survey Monday showing that average hourly pay for servers at 72 restaurants in the city is $28.56.
The survey also showed that cooks average $13.89 an hour and that support employees, like busboys and hosts, make $12.64 an hour.
"This survey proves what we as servers already know. Tipped restaurant employees in Minneapolis are making well above $15 an hour on average," said Sarah Norton, a six-year Minneapolis server who organized a group called Service Industry Staff for Change. "City leaders should focus on giving a raise to the cooks and support employees while preserving the jobs and pay structure for tipped employees."
The survey, which collected data from restaurants such as Zen Box Izakaya, World Street Kitchen, Red Stag Supperclub, Pizzeria Lola and Barbette, comes amid a heated debate about how a higher minimum wage should be structured in Minneapolis, an issue the City Council expects to take up this summer.
Mayor Betsy Hodges has repeatedly said there should be no carve-out for tipped workers, arguing that a municipal minimum wage should be the same for everyone. Most tipped workers don't make $15 an hour, she says, citing Bureau of Labor Statistics data, and female servers are at greater risk of sexual harassment if they must depend on tips for a large portion of their compensation.
Hodges has the support of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation on the issue. Many advocates for a $15 minimum wage agree, though Hodges has not committed to a specific number.
Ginger Jentzen, a leader in the 15 Now movement who is running for City Council in the Third Ward under the Socialist Alternative banner, said she opposes "gutting" server wages by exempting them from a higher minimum wage and argued that the complexity of a tiered wage could open the door to wage theft and intimidation.
"These schemes undermine even the concept of a minimum wage," said Jentzen, who attended a listening session organized by Service Industry Staff for Change. "This should be on the basis of what workers need and want in the city, and not what the Minnesota Restaurant Association wants to push, which is a national agenda."
The Minnesota Restaurant Association said its survey "refutes" the federal data Hodges cites. The group and servers associated with Service Industry Staff for Change say a $15 base wage for servers would force restaurants to change their business model, push some out of business and ultimately harm servers.
"Our jobs and livelihood are at stake as city leaders consider this proposal," Norton said.
The Minnesota Restaurant Association launched a campaign last month called Pathway to $15, which conducted the survey. Critics of the group say its advocacy is disingenuous since it also supports state legislation that would forbid local governments from setting their own minimum wages or making other local labor laws.
The group's data showed that the average server or support employee works about 20 hours a week at the 72 restaurants surveyed. Kitchen staff work longer hours — about 31 per week. The data come from tax records in October.
Adam Belz • 612-673-4405