St. Paul, Minneapolis Mayors Push to Raise Minimum Wage

Updated: 02/06/2014 11:11 AM
Created: 02/06/2014 7:23 AM
By: Jennie Olson

You heard about it during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union, and on Thursday you’ll hear about it in the Twin Cities – there’s a new push to raise the minimum wage.

On Thursday, the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul will team up to try to make that happen. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges want to see the state minimum wage hit $9.50 an hour.

The group says workers in retail, food service, hospitality, custodial work and health care would be most likely to see the bump.

Minnesota currently has two different minimum wages: for smaller employers it’s $5.25, and for larger companies it’s $6.15. However, many workers get paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Currently, about 6 percent of hourly workers in Minnesota make the federal minimum wage or less. In 2011, that was 93,000 workers, and almost half worked in food and serving jobs.

Minnesota is not alone in this debate; lawmakers in at least 30 states are hoping to raise the minimum wage.

Just this week, Washington state lawmakers heard arguments on raising their state’s minimum hourly wage to $12 over the next three years. About a dozen other states and Washington, D.C., are also expected to consider bumping up wages this year.

Supporters say it would improve consumer spending and help women and minorities reach fair pay. In total, they believe about 350,000 Minnesotans would make more money.

During the president’s State of the Union address, he announced plans to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10. In the speech he spotlighted Minnesota company Punch Pizza, which voluntarily gave employees a raise to $10 an hour. Owners say the decision has been good for business.

“The interest in working for our company has exploded,” Co-owner John Puckett said. “The amount of applications in our stores since we announced our policy has increased, and the amount of people coming in and talking about it in the store has increased.”

But opponents say the boost would hurt some businesses’ bottom lines and could even force some people out of work because they would be forced to cut jobs.

If the wage goes up, there are major disagreements about just how much – especially between lawmakers. Last session, the House settled on $9.50 and the Senate agreed to $7.75, but the session ended before they could come together and send it to Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk for a signature.

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