Workers call out Johnson for opposing minimum-wage increases

Darcy Landau, a wheelchair agent at MSP International Airport, questioned Jeff Johnson's opposition to minimum wage increases as Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson looked on.

Darcy Landau, a wheelchair agent at MSP International Airport, questioned Jeff Johnson’s opposition to scheduled minimum wage increases.

How do minimum-wage workers feel about Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson’s opposition to wage increases scheduled for 2015 and 2016, and cost-of-living increases scheduled to begin in 2018?

Ask Darcy Landau, one of tens of thousands of workers statewide who saw their wages climb to $8 per hour Aug. 1.

“Does Mr. Johnson realize the pain he would cause people like me and working people across the state?” Landau asked. “Does he have any clue what it’s like to live on minimum wage?”

A wheelchair agent at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Landau said his job offers no affordable health insurance or career advancement. Many of his co-workers juggle two or three minimum- or low-wage jobs just to make ends meet for themselves and their families.

The Aug. 1 wage increase was the first Landau had received in years, and it came thanks to legislation signed into law by labor-endorsed Gov. Mark Dayton. Landau said future increases included in the new law are necessary to keep up with the rising cost of food, rent and transportation.

Landau spoke at a press conference called by the Minnesota AFL-CIO, the state’s largest federation of labor unions, representing more than 300,000 union workers.

The federation was part of a coalition of labor, faith and non-profit groups that lobbied successfully to pass the minimum wage bill last spring, and Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson warned that Johnson, if elected governor, would put the coalition’s accomplishments in jeopardy.

Knutson pointed to three examples of Johnson’s “consistent record” of opposition to increasing the minimum wage:

  • Johnson voted against a modest increase to $6.15 per hour – a measure that Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty eventually signed into law – as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2006.
  • In an interview with the Bemidji Pioneer, Johnson said he would sign legislation repealing the minimum wage increase passed earlier this year.
  • He is committed to blocking annual cost-of-living increases to the minimum wage in 2018 and beyond.

That record is unlikely to sit well with the 325,000 Minnesotans who will see their wages go up as a result of the new minimum-wage law. To appeal to those voters, Knutson said, Johnson recently attempted to flip-flop his position on minimum wage.

“In last week’s debate, Jeff Johnson tried to run away from it, but he has a clear record of opposing wage increases for the lowest-paid people in Minnesota,” Knutson said. “Whether it was his time in the Legislature or during his campaign, Jeff Johnson has shown time and again that he sides with billionaires and big corporations over working Minnesotans.”

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