A March 12 Free Press editorial (“Raise Minnesota’s minimum wage reasonably”) supported increasing the state’s minimum wage, but wisely raised concerns regarding future automatic increases.
Minnesota’s restaurant, lodging and campground operators share that concern. The desire of the Legislature to help workers is commendable, but any minimum wage increase needs to be implemented thoughtfully to avoid negatively impacting the very people they are attempting to help.
Minnesota is home to nearly 10,000 eating and drinking establishments. These bars and restaurants are sources of good jobs for approximately 180,000 people and provide more than $2.3 billion in wages. A majority of these establishments are small businesses or are family-owned.
Restaurants, our employees and customers would be dramatically impacted by a minimum wage increase that is excessively high, tied to inflation and doesn’t account for tips as income.
According to a Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry survey, more minimum wage earners work in eating and drinking establishments than in any other field.
Restaurant owners and operators want to maintain and grow these good jobs. But a minimum wage hike that makes it more difficult for restaurants to operate will mean fewer hours for servers, more restaurants transitioning to counter-service or orders placed through iPads, and increased prices.
It will also mean fewer job opportunities for young people — a majority of minimum wage earners in Minnesota are between ages 15 and 19.
Mankato’s restaurant scene is vibrant and growing. We can keep it that way, if the Legislature is careful to do a minimum wage increase the right way.