Supporters of raising the state’s minimum wage – and indexing it to keep up with the cost of living – kept the pressure on state senators today, delivering more than 7,000 postcards from constituents demanding action.
The postcards are the product of conversations with Minnesotans that began, Raise the Wage Coalition spokesperson Jennifer Munt said, with a question: Should people who work full time have to live in poverty?
“Almost always the answer was ‘no,’” Munt said. “And it was an urgent ‘no’ for low-wage workers.”
Organizers of the Raise the Wage Coalition, which includes unions, community organizations, religious groups and non-profits, have been starting those conversations at public events like the Minnesota State Fair and in conversations with Minnesotans on their doorsteps.
“We’ve been talking with our members at the doors each night since last May,” Working America statewide director Bree Halverson said.
Working America members are workers who do not have the benefit of a union contract on the job, and they “overwhelmingly support raising the minimum wage,” Halverson added. In fact, many would benefit directly from an increase to $9.50 per hour.
“Some of our members work two or three jobs because they can’t find one with an hourly wage that goes far enough, or they don’t get enough hours to make ends meet,” Halverson said.
While both the Senate and House have passed minimum-wage increases, a final bill remains stuck in conference committee at the Capitol. Coalition members support the House bill, which would raise the wage to $9.50 by 2015 and includes indexing so that the wage keeps its value as the cost of living increases.
Munt, communications director for Council 5 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said indexing “protects the purchasing power of the working poor, and it ensures their families won’t slip into poverty.”
“We don’t freeze the price of groceries, so why would we freeze the minimum wage?” she asked.
Indexing also makes sure coalition members won’t have to fire up the campaign again in years to come.
“Indexing keeps politics out of the minimum wage and ensures workers won’t have to wait another nine years for an increase,” Munt said.
The coalition also wants the minimum-wage bill to:
• Conform Minnesota’s definition of a large business to the federal threshold of $500,000 annual gross sales.
• Conform state law to reflect the federal 40-hour work week and twelve weeks of parental leave upon the birth or adoption of a child.
• Protect tipped workers from having their wages cut by not allowing tip penalty language to be inserted into the bill.