On Wednesday, Senator Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis) joined his colleagues in the Minnesota Senate in approving legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage from $6.15/hour to $9.50/hour in 2016, with ongoing increases of up to 2.5% tied to the rate of inflation beginning in 2018.
“This is a big step forward for low wage workers in our community. We rely on these workers every day, yet many of them cannot support their own families,” said Hayden. “Raising the minimum wage is part of a larger effort to lift up the working poor and ensure all Minnesotans have the opportunity to earn enough to get by.”
If signed into law, the minimum wage increase to $9.50 would be phased in over the next three years for 357,000 low wage workers across the state.
Said Hayden, “Achieving a meaningful minimum wage increase is one of the most important welfare reforms taken by the Minnesota Legislature in many years. For too long, working parents have earned so little from their labor that they were forced to accept food stamps, cash assistance, and use food shelves to feed their children. I have no doubt that the value of raising the minimum wage will be reflected in sharp reductions of working people on public and private assistance programs.”
“I think most Minnesotans agree that an ‘honest day’s work is worth an honest day’s reward,’ yet critics of this legislation claimed that the minimum wage should not be a ‘living wage.’ But for thousands of Minnesota workers, ‘not living’ is not an option and better paying jobs aren’t always there. No one is going to get rich on $9.50 per hour, but it will help them put food on the table and make the rent.”
Passed in the Senate on a 35 to 31 margin, the legislation also includes a safeguard to ensure the minimum wage does not lose value over time based on inflation. Additionally, a lower wage of $7.75 would apply to smaller employers with annual gross sales below $500,000, as well as workers under the age of 18 and those on a training wage.
Hayden added, “I want to thank everyone who has come to the Capitol or called my office to make their voices heard. It was the working poor, aided by an army of great folks in the labor movement and religious and non-profit groups, who took it on themselves to contact their legislators with their stories. They’re the ones who made this great day happen.”
The legislation is likely to be debated in the Minnesota House tomorrow, and if passed, could be signed into law as early as this week.