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Minumum Wage

Raising the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour would give 357,000 Minnesota workers a pay raise. It would increase spending power in the state by nearly half a billion dollars a year. It would be especially good for women and workers of color.

Those are key findings in a report from the Jobs Now Coalition, which details the economic and community benefits of raising the wage to $9.50 by 2015. That is the wage the House of Representatives approved last spring. AFSCME and allies now are pushing the Senate to finish the job when the Legislature reconvenes in February.

Who really benefits

The Jobs Now report blows up outdated stereotypes and misperceptions about minimum-wage workers in today’s economy. For example:

  • A typical minimum-wage worker is an adult, not a teenager in an after-school job.
  • Raising the wage to $9.50 would immediately improve economic security for 63,000 working parents; those higher wages for parents will directly improve life and achievement for 137,000 children.

The report especially highlights how raising the wage would benefit women and communities of color:

  • 57 percent of workers who would get a raise are women, even though women are less than half the workforce.
  • The vast majority of workers who would get a raise are white. But a wage increase to $9.50 has a bigger impact on communities of color: 29 percent of Latino workers and 22 percent of African-American workers would get a pay raise.

The Jobs Now report also illustrates how the minimum wage lost its historical purchasing power. One example: The federal minimum would be $10.50 if it had kept up with inflation in the past 45 years. The Minnesota bill adjusts the future wage to inflation.

The House bill also continues to outlaw a “tip penalty;” that prevents the state from establishing a lower, second-tier wage scale for restaurant staff and others who work for tips.

This story is adapted from the January-February 2014 edition of Council 5’s Stepping Up magazine.

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