A new report compiled after hundreds of interviews with St. Paul workers showcases the crisis of poverty wages facing the thousands of workers in St. Paul who currently make less than $15 per hour. The report comes just weeks before the St. Paul City Council will begin the process to consider a $15 minimum wage for workers in the city. The report was conducted by a broad coalition of community groups led by Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, and surveyed more than 500 individuals working in Saint Paul.
Key findings of the report include:
In the growing retail and food-service industries, over 90% of the respondents make less than $15 per hour.
Half of all workers interviewed use their income to support someone other than themselves
Older workers were just as likely as younger workers to make the minimum wage
When asked what they would do with a raise, the most popular responses we to cover essential needs.
Marfa Malcolm, a CTUL member who works in St. Paul and currently makes under $15, highlighted this reality.
"I am a single mother, and I work three jobs to get by. If I had more money, I could spend more time with my family and take better care of my health. This not only would help me and my family but would mean I was spending money at other places in the city besides just rent and bills."
The report also highlights how the food service industry has a large concentration of workers making less than $15 per hour. Evann Zuckerman, a tipped worker in Saint Paul, spoke about why these numbers reiterate how important it is for the increased minimum wage to include all workers and not carve out tipped or youth workers like some lobbyists are calling for.
“I love my job and the people I get to work with, but I need a $15 minimum wage, with no carve outs to be able to afford to live. Tips are fickle, and the tip credit is very difficult to enforce, and so workers like me need a higher minimum wage. With the rising price of housing, and the increasing burdens of student loans, the only option for me, and so many workers like me, is a reliable livable wage.”
Savanna Mathis, a 17-year-old who worked at a fast food franchise making $10/hour, commented on the impacts of generational poverty in Saint Paul and the need for living wages for young workers. "I grew up in a household where we never had enough money to live even when my parents worked everyday from morning to midnight. What they would get paid was never enough to care for everyone in our family. My brother can't finish high school because he needs to make money so he can be sure there is a home for him to live in."
$15 Now organizer Celeste Robinson explained that "working people in St. Paul have made clear through the election of Mayor Carter and Mitra Nelson Nelson to the St. Paul City Council as well as months of demonstrations and organizing that a $15 minimum wage with no carve-outs is absolutely necessary."