Outside John Kline’s office, minimum-wage workers rally for a raise

Workers ask John Kline to consider living on $290 per week, the gross pay of a full-time, minimum-wage worker in Minnesota.

Could John Kline live on $290 per week?

That’s the question several constituents from the 2nd Congressional District asked their Republican representative in the weeks leading up to today’s three-year anniversary of the last federal minimum-wage increase.

When Kline failed to provide his constituents with an answer, they decided to deliver a letter to his Burnsville office – and bring along about 50 of their friends and supporters. Together, they rallied in support of efforts to give the country’s lowest-paid workers a raise – efforts Rep. Kline says he continues to oppose.

“The economy is getting worse, and people need help,” said Dezirai Jones, a Savage resident who works for minimum wage at a local restaurant. “(Kline) doesn’t know what it’s like to make minimum wage. Even if he tried he would find it hard and a real eye-opener.”

Jones and other minimum-wage workers at the event, staged by the union-backed organization Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, talked about their struggle to make ends meet for themselves and their families.

“Minimum wage is basically impossible to live off of,” said Mallory Curran of Lakeville, a single mother who is separated from her husband but unable to afford a divorce.

A Minnesotan working 40 hours a week at minimum wage grosses about $290. Kline, by contrast, averages a salary of about $3,300 per week.

James L. Peng of Inver Grove Heights asked Kline to consider agreeing to live on $290 a week.

“Perhaps it’s difficult to imagine what $290 a week might look like,” Peng wrote in a letter to Kline. “We’d like to encourage you to consider trying to live on that amount for one week. After all, it isn’t easy to understand one’s personal experience if you haven’t encountered that experience yourself.”

Kline, who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee, voted against the last minimum-wage increase, passed in 2007.

Without an increase over the last three years, the minimum wage has failed to keep up with inflation – let alone skyrocketing executive pay.

Workers in the 2nd Congressional District weren’t the only ones pushing a minimum-wage hike today. A team of prominent economists, including a Nobel laureate and a former Secretary of Labor, released a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders today.

The letter, sent from the Economic Policy Institute, argues “a higher minimum wage at this juncture will not only provide raises for low-wage workers but would provide some help on the jobs front as well.”

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