Community members rallied outside a Minneapolis restaurant Monday to protest proposals to pay tipped workers less than the minimum wage. That practice, they said, can lead to workers being robbed of wages they have earned.
“U.S. Department of Labor data shows that 84 percent of restaurants nationwide fail to make up the difference when there’s a tip penalty,” said Serena Thomas, a server in Minneapolis.” I don’t want to open the door to extreme wage theft in Minneapolis.”
The rally was organized by 15Now Minnesota and other organizations who advocate a $15 minimum wage. A majority of the Minneapolis City Council has voiced support for the $15 wage, but faces pressure from the restaurant industry, which wants to pay tipped employees less.
Monday’s rally was outside a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant near the University of Minnesota. Buffalo Wild Wings is facing a class-action, wage theft lawsuit by 58,000 current and former employees across the country for paying below the minimum wage – as little as $2.13 an hour in some states – during times when workers were unable to earn tips, such as cleaning, food prep, and opening and closing the restaurant.
Minnesota is one of only seven states that bans employers from deducting tips from workers’ wages.
“Every server deserves the stability that $15 plus tips would provide,” said Tony Korum, a server at Perkins.
Monday’s rally was accompanied by a counter-demonstration by “Pathway to $15,” a group formed by the Minnesota Restaurant Association to lobby for a tip penalty. They held signs and attempted to shout down speakers at the rally.
“This fight is not about workers versus workers,” said Rod Adams of NOC, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. “It’s about ending poverty in Minneapolis. It’s about making sure that servers get what they deserve – not opening the door for wage theft.”
An investigation by Workday Minnesota found wage theft is larger and more widespread than most people realize. Minnesotans are losing millions of dollars every year.