Minimum Wage Decrease in Madison

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Madison: The new statewide minimum wage increase went into effect Wednesday, but some workers could actually get a pay decrease.

Megan Thiele has been waiting tables at the Great Dane Brewpub for just over a year. Her hourly wage got an increase last January when Madison's minimum wage increase brought the tipped wage from $2.33 an hour up to $2.57 an hour.

The taxes on a server's tips eat up most of their paychecks, but now, they say, they were actually taking home some money. "I got a check the other day for $8, and I was all excited because it was $8."

But that increase disappeared Wednesday, when Gov. Doyle signed the minimum wage preemption bill, wiping out Madison's increase.
That's because the statewide tipped minimum wage stays at $2.33.

So will Madison restaurants take back that 24 cent increase? Wisconsin Restaurant Association lobbyist Pete Hanson says no. "In the future they might start employees at $2.33 an hour, but people who've gotten the increase, they're not going to take it back."

Managers at the Great Dane say they've already budgeted for a wage increase, and it would be a slap in the face to their employees to take it away now. "We joked about it, but we'd never do it. They deserve it, they work hard," says manager Kristin Jorgenson.

Nitty Gritty General Manager Lee Pier says servers won't be getting a pay cut, and new employees won't have to start at the bottom either. "Nobody sees a pay decrease, and even the people we start will probably start at $2.57 an hour."

Managers at both restaurants say it was easier to keep wages up because most servers were making more than the new minimum.

"Most of them were above $2.57," says Pier.

"I probably added 12–15, which were all newer servers that hadn't gotten a wage increase because of their sales. Some servers make over $4 an hour," says Jorgenson.

The Manager at the Nitty Gritty said because servers live off their tips, most didn't even notice the increase in their hourly wage.

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