A blog to keep current on MPIRG'S fight for social and environmental justice.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Minimum Wage Rage!

Step 1: Click here and follow the instructions.

Step 2: Ask yourself the following question: Can you live on minimum wage?

If the answer to that question was yes or maybe, take into consideration that this calculator is for a single person without children. What if you had a child, or several? What if you had a partner who couldn't work because of health issues, or what if you yourself had health issues? How would you make ends meet? How, on $7.25 an hour, would you buy food, gas, clothes, and still save for emergencies? For most of us, it is simply impossible. The minimum wage in Minnesota (currently sitting at $6.15 per hour, below the federal rate) is unrealistic.

Still not convinced? According to the chart below, a Minnesotan working at minimum wage would have to work 86 hours per week to afford a standard two-bedroom apartment. That breaks down to working 12+ hours a day, seven days a week. In fact, there is no state in which an individual working minimum wage can work 40 hours a week and still afford a standard two-bedroom apartment.

Since the start of the 2014 MN legislative session, the House and Senate have been engaged in negotiations on HF 92, a bill that would raise the minimum wage for large businesses to $9.50 per hour and implement an inflation index. This index would raise the wage each year by either the consumer price index or by 2.5 percent, depending on which option is lower. In Minnesota, minimum wage has not been increased in eight years. In 2006, the price of gas was about $0.50 cheaper. It’s time to raise the wage and prevent the need for legislative battles on this issue in the future.

According to MN Raise the Wage! coalition, if an index had been implemented when Minnesota passed its first minimum wage in 1975 ($1.80), the wage today would be approximately $9.50 and the argument would be obsolete. As the price of life’s necessities rises, so to should the living wage of Minnesota’s hard workers. It just makes sense.

Ideals aside, here’s where we're sitting in the debate. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk has been quoted in MinnPost and the Pioneer Press adamantly arguing that the Senate would not pass a bill with an index. To further complicate things, the Senate negotiators have proposed more wage tiers such as a youth (below 18) rate of $7.25 per hour. They also argue that the new minimum wage should take effect in 2016 instead of 2015, as the House originally wanted. The House has conceded to a 2016 start date for the $9.50 wage, but remains adamant the compromise include an inflation index that will take effect in 2017.

Bottom line: without indexing, the value of the minimum wage erodes each year. Working at minimum wage, college students, families, and workers struggle to stay above the poverty line. In a reality where the cost of gas, groceries, rent, and other basic necessities rises each year, it’s time that our minimum wage reflects those changes and rises with inflation.

Shonna Korsmoe
Communications Intern

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