Temporarily out of press releases from his GOP overlords, Pat Powers squawks in confused triumph over a Minnesota café that is adding a 35-cent "minimum wage fee" to every customer's bill.
Minnesota just increased its minimum wage last Friday. Minnesota was one of only four states with a minimum wage below the federal $7.25 an hour. Legislation passed this spring raises the minimum wage for small businesses from $5.25 to $6.15 an hour and for big businesses from $6.15 an hour to $8.00 an hour. (MinnPost explains the details well.)
South Dakotans can't count on their Legislature to act in the best interest of workers, so we had to put forward a ballot initiative to raise our minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50. Powers seems to think one café's minimum-wage fee supports his opposition to raising the minimum wage:
And it highlights an excellent point – when people say they’re in support of an increased minimum wage – who do people think are going to be paying it? Ultimately, they will in increased costs.
Because the alternative will be to fire people, or to pay to automate things when it’s more affordable to do so [Pat Powers, "Minnesota Employer Charging Customers a Minimum Wage Fee to Offset Mandate," Dakota War College, 2014.08.06].
Powers doesn't seem to notice that the Minneapolis news report he cites doesn't highlight any such thing. It highlights the fact that customers think the café owner is grandstanding but are willing to support better wages for workers by paying for it.
It also ignores the fact that the 35-cent fee supports the arguments minimum-wage proponents make. The Oasis Café appears to have seventeen employees, with seven on the floor at peak hours. Let's assume the café qualifies as a large business and that every one of those employees is at minimum wage. If I sit down for lunch during a busy hour, I'm taking advantage of the service of seven employees, each making $1.85 more per hour. Multiply—that's $12.95 in increased operating cost per hour. 37 customers paying the 35-cent minimum-wage fee in one hour will make up that difference. (Never mind that the minimum-wage fee isn't really tied to the minimum wage, since it doesn't take into account whether I'm waited on by a rookie waitress or a seasoned server who's gotten a raise, or the actual amount of labor that I demand based on the size and complexity of my order and the time I spend in the café.)
For a quarter and a dime, customers enjoy the benefits of more purchasing power for the workers most likely to stimulate the economy with spending, faster job growth, and more people lifted out of poverty and off government assistance. Oasis Café customers are showing they are willing to pay such a pittance for the pleasure of grilled cheese and labor policy that is both moral and effective. South Dakota voters, let's show the same moral and economic spirit and vote Yes on Initiated Measure 18.