Vowing that “it’s time for work to pay again,” a coalition of community, faith, labor and service organizations came together at the Minnesota State Fair to announce a campaign for a $9.50 minimum wage by 2015.
The group held a news conference at the Minnesota AFL-CIO’s Labor Pavilion, where a large banner proclaimed support for the higher wage.
“It is simply wrong to pay poverty wages to someone who works hard for 40 hours a week or even more,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson.
The Minnesota House passed legislation in the 2013 session with a $9.50 minimum wage by 2015, increases for inflation, no penalty for tipped workers, and federal conformity to work hours and family leave. The Senate passed a bare bones bill that gradually increased the wage to $7.75 over two years.
“There are nearly half a million Minnesotans who work hard, play by the rules, but have employers who only pay at or near the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour,” said Peggy Flanagan, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota. “That rate is nowhere near the sort of wage a person needs to support themselves, let alone an entire family.”
Cost of Living research shows that in a Minnesota family of four with two full-time working parents and two children, each parent needs to earn at least $14 an hour to meet even basic needs.
MSP Airport worker Abdi Ali knows first hand what it’s like to work hard for minimum wage.
“I help wheelchair-bound passengers from point to point at the airport and am sometimes the first person passengers meet at the airport.” Ali said. “I like my job and I like helping people but I am only making $7.25 and sometimes I cannot pay my rent or my other bills. I don’t want to have to ask the state to help pay for my health insurance or low income housing.”
A minimum wage increase would also be good for small business. According to research from the Jobs Now Coalition, a minimum wage increase to $9.50 would pump $427 million in consumer spending into Minnesota’s economy each year.
A poll released in May showed 54 percent of Minnesotans support increasing the minimum wage to $9.50. Coalition leaders promised a robust campaign of one-on-one conversations with Minnesotans, research reports, and grassroots lobbying between now and the start of the 2014 Legislative session.
“We already know that a majority of Minnesotans think raising the minimum wage to $9.50 is the right thing to do,” said Brian Rusche, Executive Director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition. “We’re excited to have conversations that will motivate them to engage their State Senator on this issue.”