For Immediate Release
April 3, 2007
Mike Webb, 212–998–6746
Paul Sonn, 917–566–0680
Brennan Center Analysis Shows Montana Bill Would Repeal Voter-Approved Wage Increase and Slash Pay for Restaurant Workers
A new analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law reveals that a bill being considered by the Montana legislature could slash pay by more than $4.00 an hour for 8,600 restaurant workers across the state. In doing so it could partly repeal the states new minimum wage law just months after it was enacted with the support of 73% of Montana voters.
The restaurant industry, which is the chief proponent of Montana House Bill 492 (HB 492), describes it as making modest adjustments in how Montanas minimum wage law applies to tipped restaurant servers. However, a review of HB 492s actual statutory language and contents reveals that it could significantly weaken Montanas voter-approved minimum wage protections.
The restaurant industrys proposal is a Trojan horse, said Paul Sonn, co-director of the Brennan Centers Economic Justice Project. What theyre calling a modest adjustment could actually slash pay by more than $4.00 an hour for 8,600 waiters and waitresses statewide and block them from getting the future minimum wage increases that the voters approved in November.
The restaurant industrys attack on the minimum wage in Montana appears to be part of a national pattern. In Missouri and Ohio two other states where voters approved minimum wage increases last November low-wage employers also proposed implementation plans which were, in fact, covert attempts to roll back the voter-approved wage hikes. In Missouri, after growing public outcry, Governor Matt Blunt abandoned the proposal and fired the state official who had backed it.
The Brennan Center analysis finds that, if adopted, HB 492 could effectively reverse for tipped restaurant workers many of the protections adopted in last years minimum wage ballot initiative, I-151. It could deny restaurant workers the annual cost-of-living increases that the voters approved a crucial protection for ensuring that the minimum wage does not erode again in the future. Even worse, it 492 would It would likely be construed to allow restaurant servers to be paid 100% in tips. Federal law would still require that they be paid a base cash wage of $2.13 per hour, but that is a $4.02 cut in pay from the $6.15 base cash wage that Montanas current minimum wage requires.
The median wage for Montanas 8,600 restaurant servers, including tips, is just $7.32 an hour, which translates to $15,226 for those lucky enough to work full-time year round. By cutting their pay substantially and denying them future minimum wage increases, HB 492 would cause real hardship for these workers and their families.
For the Brennan Centers analysis of HB 492, click here.