Five years to wait

Last week, the minimum wage in Minnesota rose to $9.65 per hour ($7.87 for a small employer) when a 15 cent increase went into effect because of legislation I helped pass in 2014. I was pleased to support that long-overdue increase, from a shockingly low $6.50 to $9.50 over three years, and then linking it to inflation. But let’s get real. $9.65 per hour is far less than it costs to support a single person anyplace in the state, let alone a family.

“Fight for 15” is a rallying cry for thousands of workers who work full time but still make far too little to live on. After a valiant and effective organizing effort, the City of Minneapolis passed an ordinance phasing in a $15 minimum wage by July 1, 2022 for large businesses, and by July 1, 2024 for smaller ones. Even in Minneapolis, you might have to wait until 2024 to make $15 an hour.  

$15 per hour is not enough to live on in Minneapolis TODAY, never mind in five or seven years.  

Every year, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) puts out a Cost of Living Report. The report estimates how much a Minnesota family must earn to cover basic expenses (but no vacation, savings, dining out, or entertainment). The range is from $13.66 per hour in the southwest corner of the state to $19.63 in the Twin Cities Metro area. TODAY, even $15 per hour is not enough to meet basic needs for most people in Minnesota.  

A $15 minimum wage would be a huge improvement for many workers. But let’s not compromise before we even start. Workers need at least $15 per hour now, not in five or seven years. State government could help small businesses pay their employees a living wage—boosting local economies all over the state.

Weekly EmailLeo Alfred