Taking a cue from the John Pierpoint Morgan "Everyone Who Works For Me Can Go Screw Themselves" school of thought, one Minnesota restaurant has decided to pay for its employees' $0.75 hourly raise by making its employees pay for it themselves.
David Burley and Stephanie Shimp own the Blue Plate Co., which oversees eight restaurants in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Recently, in advance of Minnesota's upcoming wage hike (to a whole $8/hour*! WHOA THERE, BIG SPENDER!), they sent their employees a memo. Here's how the memo started:
"Today you are getting a raise!" the memo said, mentioning the additional $. 75 per hour that servers, bussers and bartenders will get.
"It is a well deserved raise. We know that you work hard, every shift, every meal, every day. When this raise shows up in your paycheck, we want it to be visible in the warm welcome and bright smile you bring to our guests."
Is your bullshit meter going at full steam yet? Are you waiting for the other shoe to drop? You really should be, because it's a doozy:
Owners David Burley and Stephanie Shimp went on to say that the mandatory wage increase, plus rising expenses due to the health care law, will cost the company $1.25 million.
While Blue Plate will absorb most of that cost, the company also slightly increased prices last week, and now intends to pass along the fees to servers when a credit card is used to pay the tip.
Since most customers pay with credit cards, the hit to servers is estimated to be 2 percent of their tips, on top of the taxes they already pay.
So they're actually attempting to circumvent the minimum wage law by making servers, bartenders, and bussers pay for their own wage increase. Go ahead and pause to take a few seconds for your brain to adjust to the implications of that, because the level of dickery there is more than a bit mind-blowing.
They're also not the only ones doing it: Parasole Restaurant Holdings, another successful restaurant group in the area, also engages in the practice. Additionally, several restaurants in the state, such as River Oasis Restaurant in Stillwater, Minnesota, have been engaging in sad, passive-aggressive dickery like adding a visible "Minimum Wage Fee" onto their checks — a practice which has thankfully, hilariously, and predictably backfired.
For those of you thinking "well, this might just be the cost of actually treating workers like human beings! Businesses can't afford to get by! THANKS, OBAMA!" you're going to want to put those third-grade-reading-level Talking Points back in their holster, because both Blue Plate and Parasole are extremely profitable:
"Parasole had $30 million in sales last year and just opened a new Tim McKee restaurant in Calhoun Square," Luneberg said. "Blue Plate just opened a 300-seat facility in the warehouse district with a full brewery. [They also just announced they will operate a restaurant at the State Fair]. Business must be terrible."
Kris Jacobs, executive director of Jobs Now Coalition, couldn't cloak her sarcasm.
"You know, rich waitresses are ruining everything," she deadpanned. "I think this is going to backfire."
It's obvious that the restaurants could easily deal with the cost off-set here themselves by reducing the amount of executive compensation or at least slowing expansion plans, but this is America, where wealth = human value, so why should the Blue Plate and Parasole owners each act like they have the barest shred of human decency between them?
Now, anyone with a soul will respond to this by saying "there's no way this could possibly be legal." But as far as I can tell...it actually is. It seems the law never thought to account for a concept as broken, ass-backwards, and ridiculous as a company trying to make its employees pay for their own minimum wage increase. Someone more informed on the legality of this, please let me know if this is actually against the law; if it was, I would think Blue Plate Co. and Parasole wouldn't be so blatant and fearless about it.
The weird irony is that Blue Plate Co.'s owners actually supported the minimum wage hike legislation (WAT). Because of that, I don't believe this is a case of restaurants deliberately treating their employees with contempt;** it's just a clueless business owner not getting the ramifications of how crappy their actions are.
But don't take it from me. Take it from Blue Plate Co.'s own employees:
"It's just bad [for] morale when [Burley] drives up in a Porsche, and yet he wants my 2 percent," an employee said.
Note that "it's bad for morale" is the much nicer way of saying "it's a huge dick move."
* For those wondering about the sub-minimum wage: Minnesota is one of the few states that doesn't have a separate sub-minimum wage.
** This does happen, by the way. I worked for McCormick and Schmick's when it was bought out by Landry's Seafoods, the most vile corporate entity I've ever personally had the misfortune of dealing with. Aside from the ludicrous amounts of micromanaging (reducing table sections down to 4 and then 3 tables, then mandating that the floor had to be fully staffed even on a slow day), the company regularly went out of its way to show us how much it not only didn't care about us, but actively detested us.
The best example? Shortly after buying out McCormick's, Landry's began informing us they'd be making us pay to get our employee discounts: $9.50 every week. I think only two of the employees said no, we'd pass on getting a discount at all at that point, thanks (because McCormick's food is shit anyway). The company's response was to tell us that in that case, we couldn't drink anything from the soda fountain, nor coffee, nor tea, and if we wanted to drink their water we had to bring our own bottle. That's not an exaggeration — Landry's Seafoods is dickish enough that they refused to let their own employees use sub-1 cent disposal paper cones for water purely to be spiteful. If you're planning on trying to justify that behavior in the comments, do everyone around you a favor and instead just go ahead and set yourself on fire.
Image via doomu/Shutterstock.