Minimum Wages and Taking Away State’s Right: More in the Fine Print

An AP story on the fine print behind the GOP’s alleged concern for workers earning the minimum wage reports:

Nevada, California and Washington are among seven states where workers get to keep their tips on top of getting paid their state’s full minimum wage. In other states, tip-earning workers get paid less and make up the difference with tips. A provision in GOP-written minimum wage legislation passed by the House and under consideration this week by the Senate could change the law in those seven states — the others are Montana, Alaska, Minnesota and Oregon. It would deal a pay cut of $3 or more an hour to thousands of waiters, bellhops and hairdressers in those states, according to Democrats and labor groups. “Everything that has been achieved in seven states to support low-wage workers who earn tips is destroyed by this bill,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California. “This bill would slash the salaries of thousands of workers.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, called the provision a “travesty.” Republicans and the National Restaurant Association, which opposes a minimum wage increase and fought for the tip provision, dispute the Democratic interpretation. They say the legislation is only intended to have an impact when the states in question increase their minimum wage — at which point the increase would come out of a worker’s tips, not an employer’s payroll. “No provision results in the lowering of wages for any worker. The purpose of the provision is to allow employers with tipped employees to count their employees’ tips as wages for purposes of meeting their minimum wage obligation,” Brendan Flanagan, a spokesman for the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement Tuesday after Democrats began raising concerns. A memo by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service on Wednesday backed up the Democratic position. Under the bill language, the seven affected states “would seem to be prohibited from enforcing the minimum wage rate provisions of their laws with respect to a tipped employee” said the memo, written by Jon A. Shimabukuro, a legislative attorney at the research service, for Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California.

It would seem that with anything coming from this Republican controlled Congress, one really needs to read the fine print. Yes, the National Restaurant Association wants to win in Washington, D.C. what it lost in the state legislatures. I guess when these Republicans have to choose between state rights and giving perks to their base, the base wins out over principles every time.