Thank goodness for Gov. Mark Dayton and the Democrats who control both houses in the Minnesota Legislature. On April 14, Dayton signed into law a somewhat watered-down version of a bill previously approved by the House. Last week, the Senate, on a 39-28 vote, approved its version.
Thanks to Dayton and those lawmakers, there will be increases in the state’s minimum wage, something the Republicans in the U.S. Congress refuse to do, even though national polls show up to 80 percent of all people, including many Republican voters, approve a hefty increase in the national minimum wage.
In our state, it should be noted no Republicans voted for the increase. Isn’t it ironic those are the same politicians who claim they represent “working folks?”
Opponents of the raise trotted out the same tired arguments: too much too soon, a job-killer, companies will flee the state.
Minnesota is the latest of several states that have upped the minimum wage, largely because of the stubborn and baseless inaction in the nation’s Capitol.
In Minnesota, larger employers will have to pay $8 an hour in August and $9.50 in 2016. Smaller employers will pay less than that – $7.75 by 2016. Included in the bill is an inflation provision that would boost the minimum wage by 2.6 percent per year starting in 2018.
All reasonable people have long agreed minimum wage is simply not enough to live on. The following sentence has become practically a mantra: “Any person who works 40 hours per week should not have to live in poverty.” And that, of course, is true. It doesn’t matter if minimum-wage employees are heads of households, single mothers or teenagers. All people, no matter who they are, deserve a fair and livable wage. That should go without saying.
One could argue $9.50 is not enough – not nearly enough. If one factors in inflation, the minimum wage has shrunk in buying power in the last 30 years – so much so that if today’s minimum wage would match that of the late 1970s, it would have to be closer to $15 an hour rather than $9.50 an hour.
Nevertheless, thanks to progressive legislators and forward-looking lawmakers, Minnesota has taken an important step in trying to alleviate these inexcusable inequities. It has become painfully obvious a “free economy” and “market forces” are not going to redress these and other grievances caused by a massively lopsided economic gap in which the top 1 percent take in and control most of the money generated in this country.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. There is a push by the Obama Administration and others to raise that to $10.10 an hour.
Until this past week’s legislative action, Minnesota had one of the lowest minimum-wage rates in the nation: $6.15.
The forces of progressivism have won the day in Minnesota. There is so much more progress to be made on the state level and the national level. But raising the minimum wage here and in other states is definitely a step in the right direction, with the ultimate goal of bringing living wages and dignity to all jobs for all working people.