Lawmakers' view: It’s time to raise state’s shameful minimum wageThere is no other way to put it: Minnesota’s current minimum wage of $6.15 for large employers and $5.25 for small employers is shameful.
By: Reps. Erik Simonson and Mike Sundin, for the News Tribune
There is no other way to put it: Minnesota’s current minimum wage of $6.15 for large employers and $5.25 for small employers is shameful.
Only Georgia and Wyoming have a lower minimum wage. We don’t want to be a member of that club.
All of our neighbor states, including Wisconsin, match the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
It’s difficult to raise a family on a salary from a minimum-wage job. It’s simple math. The average price of gasoline is $3.50 per gallon in Minnesota. To fill your tank, you would have to work a full eight-hour day, making the minimum wage. To pay for one year’s college tuition at the University of Minnesota, you would have to work 2,163 hours at minimum wage. That’s three months.
Who are these folks who have to try to make ends meet with such a low income? The answer may surprise you. It’s not just high-schoolers working at fast-food restaurants. Many low-wage earners have families, children and some level of higher education. Studies tell us 58 percent of Minnesota workers earning $7.25 or less per hour are between ages 20 and 64, and 15 percent are married. More than 365,000 Minnesotans, half our college graduates, have bachelor’s degrees yet are forced to work in jobs that require only a high school diploma. Our low-wage workers are older and better-educated than ever.
We haven’t raised the minimum wage in Minnesota since 2005. A loaf of bread doesn’t cost what it did in 2005. Neither does a gallon of gas or a quart of milk. The cost of health care, mortgage, rent, groceries, fuel and transportation doesn’t wait for an increase in the minimum wage before going up. As prices have increased, the buying power of tens of thousands of Minnesotans has not.
Next year, lawmakers will consider legislation raising our state’s minimum wage to $10.55 per hour for employees who work for large employers. This long-overdue effort truly would provide a livable wage as well as boost the state’s economy by giving this untapped sector real purchasing power.
I can hear the opposition already. “Raising the minimum wage is a jobs killer.” “Companies will leave the state.”
History tells us a different story. In 2005, despite the naysaying, there were no job losses. There was no exodus of businesses from the state. In fact, employment grew 1.5 percent from 2005 to 2006, and average hourly wages rose 67 cents.
Raising the minimum wage will help more working families make ends meet in Minnesota. It will give them buying power, which will go back into Minnesota businesses. The more money we put into consumers’ pockets means more money in businesses’ cash registers. It’s pretty simple, actually.
We need to take action as soon as possible to continue the goal of restoring and revitalizing our middle class.
Rep. Erik Simonson of Duluth represents District 7B and Rep. Mike Sundin of Esko represents District 11A in the Minnesota House of Representatives.