(UPDATED 2-22-12, below)
Today the Florida Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee passed a bill that will allow employers to pay a lower minimum wage to tipped employees, waiters and waitresses.
“We are being brave and bold and being statesmen and not politicians,” said the committee chair, state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice. Detert added that the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association brought the idea for the bill to the Senate committee in an effort to make sure restaurants survive, noting that the bill makes the new minimum wage optional.
Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Restaurant and Lodging Association, said that “during the last week there have been many reports that misreported” about the bill. Dover said restaurants want to keep employees, but the 118 percent increase in their wage since 2004, when voters approved a constitutional amendment to tie minimum wage increases to the inflation index, is hurting the industry.
The bill is supported by OSI Restaurant Partners, the owners of Outback Steakhouse, and their "portfolio of brands" includes Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine.
The bill says that employers would be allowed to pay tipped workers a potential reduction of $2.52.
This argument that businesses would be hurt if wages aren't reduced is similar to several bills listed that ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council) uses in model legislation which is written by businesses and passed on to lawmakers who write them up as laws in their states. You can see the list here.
Florida isn't the only state pushing to lower minimum wage for tipped workers either. Arizona is also seeking to lower minimum wage for workers:
A state lawmaker wants Arizona voters to decide in November whether to allow a lower minimum wage for tipped workers and younger part-time and temporary employees.
Rep. Steve Court, R-Mesa, said Arizona’s minimum wage, which under a voter-approved law is higher than the federal minimum wage, hurts workers as well as businesses.
“It’s causing employers to employ fewer people,” said Court, the House majority leader. “It also makes us a lot more uncompetitive.”
On Wednesday, the House Commerce Committee endorsed HCR 2056 on a 5-3 party-line vote.
If approved by voters, the measure would allow employers to pay workers who are younger than 20 up to $3 less an hour than the state’s minimum wage if they work fewer than 20 hours a week or are employed for fewer than 90 days. The current state minimum wage is $7.65.
An amendment approved by the committee expanded the resolution to include tipped employees. Employers would pay 40 cents per hour over the federal minimum wage for tipped employees – currently $2.13 an hour.
Same argument here. Paying minimum wage to tipped workers "hurts businesses." That's not the only similarity.
Matt McMahon, a joint-venture partner in a company that owns Outback Steakhouse restaurants, told the committee that Arizona’s minimum wage has forced restaurants to reduce staff and cut employee hours.
“Our country was built on capitalism, and our state minimum wage is not capitalistic,” he said.
Three other restaurant owners registered their support, as did groups including the Arizona Restaurant Association, Arizona Retailers Association, Goldwater Institute and National Federation of Independent Business.
Yes, capitalism! Paying workers next to nothing interferes with capitalism, and hurts businesses! But wait. I thought all those big tax cuts corporations have been getting all these years were supposed to create jobs and were so good for business? In fact, our Governor is cutting taxes for businesses even more right now.
Yet we need to reduce minimum wage for those working on a poverty level as it is?
Fight for Florida has launched a new initiative to involve waiters and waitresses in a campaign to oppose a state Senate bill that would allow employers to pay tipped workers a lower minimum wage than what is currently authorized.
Fight for Florida writes: “The next time you eat out, leave behind this ‘tip’ for wait staff in addition to your cash tip. This will let restaurant employees know about this legislative attack and give them the tools to fight back.” The text links to an image to be printed out (.pdf) that reads:
Here’s a Tip! The Florida Legislature is trying to cut your hourly wages from $4.65 to $2.13. Tell them this is wrong!
For more information, go to the Fight For Florida web page here.