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Tuesday Talk: Minimum Wage: Is $9.50 enough?

September 03, 2013 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

Raising the minimum wage is good for workers and good for the economy. It will provide low-wage Minnesotans with purchasing power to boost main street and major retail businesses. Yet, the business, retail, and restaurant lobbies have fought this hard. They tend to speak for the nation's largest corporations, not our state's small business interests. We can't afford to let big business put our state on a race to the bottom in wages and compensation so that they can take home even bigger profits.

This morning, John Clay from the Jobs Now Coalition will join us from 8 to 9:30 to dispel the myths about the minimum wage, and explain why raising the wage is important for our workforce and economy.

The broader coalition, which Minnesota 2020 and Jobs Now are participants in, is asking the full legislature to adopt a state House policy that raises the wage to $9.50 an hour, up from $7.25.

Many, however, don't think that's enough. Had the wage kept pace with inflation, the rate would be above $10.

How about you? Should we set a higher minimum wage?   


Thanks for participating! Commenting on this conversation is now closed.

Thanks for participating! Commenting on this conversation is now closed.


  • Marbeth Austin says:

    September 3, 2013 at 7:56 am

    I think minimum wage should start at $12.00 an hour.

    • John Clay says:

      September 3, 2013 at 8:09 am

      In fact, cost-of-living research by JOBS NOW Coalition shows that in a family of four with two full-time working parents and two children, each parent would need to earn more than $14 an hour to meet basic needs. An individual would need to earn close to $12 an hour.

  • John Clay says:

    September 3, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Good morning! I’m John Clay, policy director of JOBS NOW Coalition. We are working with MN2020 to raise awareness of the need to raise the minimum wage here in Minnesota. I want to thank MN2020 for inviting me this morning. We’re seeing research now showing how raising the wage is good for the economy, good for business, and good for working people. I’m happy to answer questions about all that.

  • John Clay says:

    September 3, 2013 at 8:05 am

    Thanks Marbeth for your comment. Indeed $12 an hour would make sense for the economy and for working families. We are working our way through the political marsh toward a minimum wage that makes economic sense. Right now $9.50 an hour is the number last debated at the legislature.

  • Alex Christensen says:

    September 3, 2013 at 8:10 am

    This is an important topic for the economy’s ability to recover. The economy is primarily based on consumer spending, and if consumers don’t have money to spend, the economy won’t recover robustly.

    Interesting to note is that the Marck on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, MLK demanded a $2 per hour minimum wage. That $2 in 1963 would be over $15 in 2013. That’s more than twice the national minimum wage!

    • Alex Christensen says:

      September 3, 2013 at 8:11 am


    • John Clay says:

      September 3, 2013 at 8:16 am

      Very good point, Alex. Venture capitalist Nick Hanauer published a story in Bloomberg News in June titled The Capitalist’s Case for a $15 Minimum Wage, based on the need to strengthen consumer spending in the economy.  And an analysis of BLS data by John Schmitt of the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that if minimum wage had kept pace with average productivity gains, as it did in the decades leading up to the 1960s, it would today be about $22.00 an hour.

      • Dan Coner says:

        September 3, 2013 at 8:32 am

        Then, I think the minimum wage should be increased to $22.00/hr.  People have lost too much in the standard of living in the endless compromise to give them something less than they have earned.  Meanwhile, a tiny percentage of our population is raping our economy and all our economic gains.  Our economy and infrastructurre will continue to deteriorate if the richest among us don’t start doing their share.  This is the assurance we need to grow.

        • John Clay says:

          September 3, 2013 at 8:43 am

          Dan, yes $22 an hour makes economic sense and is supported by historical precedent. Of course raising minimum wage requires steps up so that businesses have time to adjust. And if the steps are planned out year by year, as is typical in minimum wage legislation, then businesses have time to plan ahead.

          One economist working on the issue explained to me that if we raised the minimum wage by 7 percent per year, we could safely raise it, year-by-year, to finally match productivity again, without any harm to the economy, and with great benefit to the consumer economy that supports small businesses.

  • Joe says:

    September 3, 2013 at 8:13 am

    John, is there anything to the case some in the business community make about higher unemployment when we raise the wage?

    • John Clay says:

      September 3, 2013 at 8:19 am

      Good question, Joe. Research today shows that raising minimum wage poses no threat to net employment. One nationwide study in the Review of Economics and Statistics shows no job loss resulting from minimum wage increases from 1990 to 2006, even where a county on one side of a state border has a higher wage than a county on the other side. (That study is “Minimum Wage Effects Across State Borders”—Arindrajit Dube, T. William Lester, and Michael Reich, November 2010.)

  • Retha Dooley says:

    September 3, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Raising the minimum wage to $9.50 will not raise a family of four above the poverty rate.  If you are a family of four, the minimum wage would have to be over $12.00 an hour to bring you up to the federal poverty guideline, and it would have to be full-time employment. 

    While some folks will say that something is better than nothing, and other folks will be “stroking-out” at the thought of $9.50, I am of the thought that we have to re-imagine our entire system.  What that new system would look like is not clear to me, but I do know that the continued concentration of wealth in a very small number of people will only serve to fuel the growing unrest in the underpaid, lower working-class masses.

    • John Clay says:

      September 3, 2013 at 8:26 am

      Retha, you are right that $9.50 an hour is still not enough to live on. Even the poverty guideline is woefully outdated, and our research on the actual cost of living in Minnesota shows that in a family of four with two full-time working adults, each parent would have to earn $14 an hour just to meet basic needs.

      Re-envisioning our economy is something more and more Americans are looking at. Raising minimum wage is one small piece of that, and $9.50 is one step.

      • Joan B. says:

        September 3, 2013 at 9:24 am

        Is it a given that we are including that each year the “new” minimum wage is adjusted for inflation?

        • John Clay says:

          September 3, 2013 at 9:48 am

          Yes Joan, the $9.50 bill also would index the minimum wage to inflation. This means the newly achieved $9.50 wage would maintain it’s value. It would not change the fact that Minnesotans actually need $14 an hour for both parents in a family of four and close to $12 an hour for an individual to meet basic needs. And of course an individual who hopes to plan for marrying and raising a family really should be paid that same $14 an hour.

  • Joe says:

    September 3, 2013 at 8:26 am

    How about what’s being called the tip penalty? For small eateries, will paying a $9.50 wage or above close the doors as the industry says?

    • John Clay says:

      September 3, 2013 at 8:32 am

      On the question of small restaurants, Joe, for any business, small or large, the cost to employers of a minimum wage increase is small relative to their total wage and compensation costs, and research shows that employers often absorb the increase through reduced turnover and increased revenue from local consumer spending, rather than layoffs. (See for example “Why Does the Minimum Wage Have No Discernible Effect on Employment?” by John Schmitt of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.)

      In fact, small businesses often are more likely to rely on local consumers. Better paid workers will also be stronger local consumers.

  • Jim Benda says:

    September 3, 2013 at 8:27 am

    If you don’t think that the minimum wage should be raised, I’d invite you to try living on the current rate yourself.  Then try to put yourself in the shoes of others trying to raise a family and trying to send their kids to college etc.  And if you think that it isn’t your responsibility to see that other peoples’ kids get to school and or have enough to eat, well then none of the rest of what I have to say to you will have any merit in your tiddy little world. 

    However, I can tell you first hand that a family living on a minimum wage spends every nickle of their weekly earnings every week back into the community.  And that is the basis of what makes an economy work.  Now multiply that idea with the thought of bringing more jobs back on shore and you have more folks working, paying taxes, and feeding themselves than are on the “dole” getting government funds that come from your taxes anyway.

    And if you don’t like the idea of your taxes funding all of these folks, I agree… so what the hell are we standing by while Congress creates a Farm bill that funds corporate millionaire farmers’ production and insurance tabs but not food stamps?  (Don’t get me wrong we should be helping the small family farmer but not the institutional farming industry!)

    Now mix in a little education into a kids’ life that comes from one of these low wage families and you can see what can happen to both enrich his/her life and break the chain of a families fortune of constantly being on the “dole”.

    I know this story first hand, I was lucky, my college scholarship paid for everything including a path out of that old life of poverty.  Now I’m happy to pay my fair share of taxes and give back to the community whenever I can. 

    We waste a lot of money in this country but a few dollars spent on helping your fellow man and neighbor can hardly be considered a part of that.

    Jim Benda

    • John Clay says:

      September 3, 2013 at 8:36 am

      Jim, you are right about low-wage workers tending to spend a large share of their earnings, just to meet basic needs. Economists call this the “marginal propensity to consume” and it’s a well-recognized principle.

      And minimum a $9.50 minimum wage would be very important for Minnesota working families. Some 33 percent of workers who would see a wage increase (over 100,000 persons) are married or are parents. About 137,000 children would benefit from increased parental income.

      Children from families with sufficient financial resources are far more likely than children from economically disadvantaged families to start kindergarten ready to succeed and to flourish in school and later in life, according to research cited by Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota. And an additional $1,000 of average annual family income throughout early childhood can result in higher reading and math scores for children in low-income families.

      • Joan B. says:

        September 3, 2013 at 9:31 am

        It truly is a “cycle” of poverty.  Children from economically disadvantaged families are way more likely to be far behind in education and sickness, and it keeps going from there.  We MUST work to get out of a class/caste society.

  • Kyle says:

    September 3, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Hi John,

    It is my understanding that some countries such as Australia have minimum wages exceptions for minors. Do you think this is an acceptable practice? It would certainly meet the food industry argument of minors in the work place while still providing a better living wage for their adult workers.

    • John Clay says:

      September 3, 2013 at 8:46 am

      Hi Kyle. In Minnesota we have a lower training wage for new employees under age 20 during the first three of employment. It is my understanding that this training wage element is maintained in the $9.50 bill being considered by the MN legislature.

    • Joe says:

      September 3, 2013 at 8:47 am

      Kyle the labor movement and child rights’ activists have fought too hard over the years to ensure our salary standards in this country are uniform and fair. This would be a tremendous step backward. Why should anyone be paid less for doing the same work? Aside from fairness and moral issues, there are a number of economic imbalances this would further exacerbate.

  • Dave W says:

    September 3, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Since I just finished reading BLINK, I’m tuned to my first impressions/awareness/judgments.  Although I think of myself as a flaming liberal, I’m also a general contractor, which makes me think about how difficult it is to make a dollar profit.  So when I try to put myself in the place of every employer, I can see how s/he would actually experience FEAR when “my employees” might organize and force me to pay them more than at this moment.  I would almost feel personally threatened, that all my hard work in getting to this place of “success” can be taken from me by people who have not worked for 35 years to make this business work:  I remember think of all the times I barely paid my bills first ....and myself last….so that my company would still be alive…..and then I have a disdaining feeling in my gut about those people who so easily say “pay me more”. 

    Just some thoughts from a business man who really wants everyone to have a good life….but who has a personal stake in this CHANGE OF THE STATUS QUO

    • John Clay says:

      September 3, 2013 at 8:49 am

      Dave, thanks for your comments. There are four principles I like to keep in mind about working life.

      1. All hired work is useful.  If it wasn’t, no one would bother hiring someone to do it.  And all useful work is valuable to the economy.

      2. All work requires learning and care.  Put another way, any kind of work can be screwed up, and not screwing up requires learning and care.

      3. All work is meant to make a living.  That’s the bargain.  A year’s full-time work is a year’s living.  And a year’s half-time work is half a year’s living.  Every hour of work obliges a fair hour’s pay.

      4. If you don’t like the quality of someone’s work, it is ethical to let them go.  It is not ethical to keep them working but pay them less than a living wage and then claim it’s because you still want their work but the quality doesn’t deserve a living wage.

    • Joan B. says:

      September 3, 2013 at 9:39 am

      Dave if you’re a contractor you must already pay your employees much more than $7.25 an hour now.

  • Jack Ray says:

    September 3, 2013 at 8:51 am

    It is really quite difficult to identify who is well served by our low minimum wage. Small employers are in a narrow sense, but would probably be better off in a world with much more broadly shared prosperty. I don’t think large companies, at least those who sell products, are well served by impoverished consumers. It seems like “beggar them because we can”!

    • John Clay says:

      September 3, 2013 at 9:00 am

      Jack, thanks for your comment. A study by the National Employment Law Project show that about two-thirds of low-wage workers are employed by large businesses with over 100 employees, and that the majority of these corporations are fully recovered from the recession and are highly profitable.

      One problem we face is that big shareholder corporations are owned by are investors who might reside anywhere in the world and whose stake in the corporation is simple: a high return on their investment. They can reap profit from the “cost savings” of employee pay-cuts and layoffs without ever feeling the human consequences.

      And large corporations like Walmart, Target, amd McDonalds are global. They can stand to lose consumers to low wages in one part of the world as long as their base of consumers is still growing in another part of the world.

  • John says:

    September 3, 2013 at 8:51 am

    People claim to be thinking about the economy and the best interests of lower-wage income earners when they advocate raising the minimum wage. However, most people do not consider two very important facts. (for those of us who are not clear, a fact is an INDISPUTABLE piece of real evidence) 1) Every time the minimum wage is raised, purchasing power does not raise accordingly; Let’s say a minimum wage empoloyer selling some sort of product has 50 employees. Minimum wage is increase from $7.25 to $9.50/hr. Assuming a 40-hr. work week, that employer would have to spend an additional $4,500 EACH WEEK on wages. Where is he/she going to find that money? The most likely outcomes are worker hours would be cut, people would simply be fired, prices would be raised or a combination of all three, so purchasing power for minimum wage earners would not change much at all. (it might even get worse) However purchasing power for everyone else would definitely decrease. 2) The Federal minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage, it was meant only to ensure that workers received at least some minimum compensation for their labor. Consider that most minimum wage jobs are low-skill, and many are simply after school jobs filled by teenagers. This might be an incentive for people to earn higher education degrees, or innovate new business ideas, etc. Now, I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we all have to consider the facts before rushing to make a decision that would be a mistake.

    • John Clay says:

      September 3, 2013 at 9:05 am

      Thanks John. The fact is that economic research already accounts for the increased cost to business owners and the effect on their own consumption. Raising Minnesota’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour would pump some $472 million a year in consumer spending into the state economy, once all gains and losses are factored in, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

      And about 77 percent of the 360,000 workers who would see a wage increase are age 20 or older, and 33 percent are married or are parents.

  • Dale says:

    September 3, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Minimum wage should be indexed to the calculated poverty level so that a person who works a standard 40-hour workweek (whether from a single employer or from multiple jobs) would earn the calculated poverty line for a single person.

    Secondly, There should be a 2-tiered minimum wage.  Employers that do not offer free health coverage for the employee at a defined minimum policy level should be required to pay a higher minimum wage equal to the base price of such minimum health care policy.  This would apply whether the employer chooses not to offer health insurance to any employee or if the employee is only part time and therefore not eligible for the employers insurance program.  Employers would be permitted to charge a payroll deduction for dependent insurance but coverage for the employee must be free to avoid the higher minimum wage.

    Third, there should not be a reduced minimum wage for “Tipped” employees.  Over the years the standard (expected) tip (as a percentage) has almost doubled because employers are being allowed to pay less with tips being allowed to get a person over the threshold of the minimum wage.  Employers should be expected to pay at least minimum wage, with tips returning to being a reward (bonus) for good service.

    • John Clay says:

      September 3, 2013 at 9:17 am

      Hi Dale. One probelm with the federal poverty level, developed many decades ago is that it is outdated and doesn’t reflect today’s cost of living. Economists often double the poverty level as a simple way to roughly approximate how much higher it should actually be today.

      The cost of health insurance is indeed a burden for most employers, as it is for most of us in general. Currently Minnesota law distinguishes between large employers who have gross annual revenue over $625,000 and small employers below that, with a lower minimum wage for the small employers, and that’s maintained in the law now being considered, but with the cutoff changing to $500,000.

      Minnesota is a national leader in opposing the tip credit (actually a tip penalty). The tip penalty would allow employers of tipped workers to pay a lower minimum wage, reducing the benefits to working families and to the state economy. Remember too that while servers in high-traffic upscale restaurants may earn more in tips, many servers, especially in small towns in Greater Minnesota, rely heavily on their hourly wage to get by. AI think we must account for the basic needs of Minnesota families and must consider the fact that a larger increase will provide a greater boost to consumer spending and economic activity.

    • Joan B. says:

      September 3, 2013 at 9:18 am

      I understand that there are plenty of jobs where servers only get tips for their wages.

      • John Clay says:

        September 3, 2013 at 9:52 am

        There is a need for better enforcement as well. The current $9.50 bill helps conform various parts of the minimum wage law to the federal law, making the state law simpler, easier for employers to understand, and easier to enforce.

  • Joan Bindner says:

    September 3, 2013 at 9:09 am

    I think that obviously we need a minimum wage of $15 an hour, given the fact that many of us are forced to take part-time jobs, especially in the service industries, including retail.

    • John Clay says:

      September 3, 2013 at 9:22 am

      Joan, that’s a good point. As of the latest Job Vacancy Survey by the MN Dept. of Employment and Economic Development, only 61 percent of all job openings in Minnesota are full-time. This means job seekers outnumber full-time openings by more than 4-to-1.

      Part-time work is especially prevalent in low-wage sectors, and Minnesota’s low-wage employers have expanded dramatically over the past three years. In retail trade, job openings rose by 183 percent. In accommodation and food services, openings rose by 224 percent.

      During the same three-year period, these gains were even more dramatic in Greater Minnesota. In Northeast Minnesota, for example, job openings in food preparation and serving went up 615 percent, giving this low-wage occupational group seven times more openings than it had three years ago.

  • Kevin says:

    September 3, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Hi John, thanks for having this conversation. I support establishing a “living” minimum wage, but have two questions, and I’ll try to keep them short.

    1. You mentioned that JOBS NOW research showed an individual would need to earn close to $12/hour to meet a living wage. A considerable body of other living wage research, including MIT’s (which is what I’m citing here), shows that level to be much lower, as low as $9.11/hr on balance for the state (higher in the metro, lower in say, Waseca County). Looking at their breakdown of expected costs (food, medical, housing, transportation, etc.), I feel they all are generous on the expected costs, having lived alone for a considerable amount of time. I came in lower in food, housing, and transportation, and lived what I considered to be a perfectly comfortable life.

    What explains the somewhat drastic differences in living wage research? Should all of these measurements be taken with a grain of salt?

    2. This one’s much shorter, I promise. What’s the argument to support a minimum wage above a single person’s living wage?

    Thanks again!

    • Joan B. says:

      September 3, 2013 at 9:20 am

      I wonder if that includes, in your comment above, Kevin, money needed when the car breaks down and other unexpected costs.

      • Kevin says:

        September 3, 2013 at 9:40 am

        Joan, that estimate does include extra money for car maintenance (regular and to some extent disaster), and it also includes some extra cash every month for miscellaneous expenses. Obviously there isn’t a ton of money to cover catastrophe expenses. Though there has to be some onus on the individual to save the extra money in the monthly budget to cover those costs. Making an additional $200/month doesn’t benefit you to cover unexpected costs if you spend it unnecessarily.

    • John Clay says:

      September 3, 2013 at 9:31 am

      Hi Kevin. Every cost of living measure has its own methodology. JOBS NOW’s Cost of Living budgets are based on a “no-frills” standard of living. No money is included for debt payments or skills training. There is no entertainment budget, no restaurant meals, no vacation, and nothing for emergencies, retirement, or children’s education. There is no money for internet service or cable TV—only basic phone service. The basic needs standard falls short of what is usually called a middle-class standard of living.

      We analyze data from a variety of official sources including the US Bureau of Census, US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, US Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Transportation, Minnesota Child Care Resource and Referral Network, US Department of Health and Human Services, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development,, Minnesota Department of Revenue, US Internal Revenue Service.

      Last time I looked at the MIT research, the annual income they show for a family of four ($41,830) is a bit higher than our $36,444 for a family of four with one parent working, and is far below our $58,368 for a family of four with both parents working, so MIT does not seem to be accounting for the cost of child care. That’s just one example. But JOBS NOW’s research is more highly focused in actual Minnesota costs.

      The reason to look at the family of four wage as a baseline is that working individuals deserve to be in a position to raise a family someday if the possibility arises. Working for a living should create opportunities, not close them off.

  • Cheryl Miller says:

    September 3, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Yes, I think the minimum wage should be higher than $9.50.  That amount for a full-time, 40 hr./week job is only $19,760 gross.  Many low income workers don’t even have full time jobs.  I think those of us with more money should be willing to pay a bit more for things to help low income workere.

    • John Clay says:

      September 3, 2013 at 9:35 am

      I agree, Cheryl. If we want Minnesota to continue to be the place we want it to be, where work is valued and working families can prosper, and businesses have customers for their products and services, then we need more full-time jobs and better paying jobs.

  • Joanne Backer says:

    September 3, 2013 at 9:24 am

    The minimum wage should be raised—even at $10/hr annual cash income is less than $20,000 annually.  At that level one still often has to rely on government assistance of some sort if one is a single parent.  Is that dignified and respectful of the worker and their work?

    • Dan Hoxworth says:

      September 3, 2013 at 9:39 am

      $15 is the dream, right now $9.50 is the proposal. $15/hour by 2020 is doable. $9.25 in 2014, $11 in 2015, $12.50 in 2016, $13.75 in 2017, $15/hr in 2018. Then indexed from then on. Let’s make this one battle and all incorporated into one piece of legislation. Otherwise, we would have to keep coming back.  There are many other battles to be waged.

      In addition, new research is showing the impact of poverty on the ability of people to function cognitively.  We need to treat poverty as a public health issue that impacts adults and their children and we need to eliminate it.  We were able to eliminate smallpox and polio.  Why not poverty?  Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”

    • John Clay says:

      September 3, 2013 at 9:39 am

      Thanks Joanne. Yes, we need to raise wages to a livable level. One synonym for working is “making a living”, and that’s what all work should allow. This is a moral issue, and a matter of family needs, and a matter of meeting economic needs and strengthening consumer spending in our state. The $9.50 bill in the MN legislature is an important step in the right direction.

      • Joan B. says:

        September 3, 2013 at 9:50 am

        Does the bill in the MN legislature include provisions for moving it up in the coming years?

        • John Clay says:

          September 3, 2013 at 10:00 am

          The $9.50 bill being considered in the MN legislature next session (early 2014) also would index the minimum wage to inflation so that the newly achieved $9.50 wage would maintain it’s value. But it would not change the fact that Minnesotans actually need $14 an hour for both parents in a family of four and close to $12 an hour for an individual to meet basic needs.

        • Peter Rachleff says:

          September 3, 2013 at 10:08 am

          Thank you, John Clay for your clarity, detail, and commitment.  Thank you, Jobs Now Coalition, for so many years of dedicated and determined work.  Thank you, MN 2020, for providing a platform for this conversation.  Thank you, Walmart and fast food workers for pushing the topic on to our society’s political-economic agenda.  Thank you, Occupy Wall Street, for returning class to the American version of the English language.  Think of all these contributions the next time you (my reader) despair and think that change—change in ideas, change in policies, change in practices, change in society—is impossible, that you are “only” one person and that “no one” will listen or care.  My research this past week for an article highlighting Frank Boyd and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (see Twin Cities Daily Planet) unearthed the union’s first wage demand in 1912, that monthly wages be DOUBLED from $25 a month to $50 a month.  While they did not win this demand right away, in their first collectively bargained contract twenty-five years later, in the midst of the Great Depression, they secured $160 a month.  Holding aloft a high standard, a desirable standard, the standard we/workers really want, say $15 an hour today, DOUBLING fast food wages, can galvanize, can inspire, and can be reached through organization, activism, and solidarity.

          • Ginny says:

            September 3, 2013 at 1:03 pm

            Peter Rachleff: Thank you for your comments. As I know you know, that increased salary gave African American families a real boost up and put many into the middle class and allowed them to go to college.
            Could you add more on this? Thanks.

  • Christeen Stone says:

    September 3, 2013 at 9:57 am

    I would just like to say AMEN! to those who have endorsed living wages as a solution to our problem. I am almost 93 years old and I worked in Texas in 1940, a 54 hour week for $10 dollars per week. That was The Great Depression days and when I compare the cost of living now I think I was paid better than minimum wages are now. I came to Minnesota and was paid twice as much for a 42 hour week. Why? They had UNIONS here. The workman is worthy of his hire. YEAH!

    • Dan Hoxworth says:

      September 3, 2013 at 11:24 am

      It would be a huge mistake to only settle for $9.50 an hour and having it indexed.  It would not achieve a living wage and the focus would move away from the issue.  Set in place the steps to get it to $15/hour in 4 years (2018) then it can be indexed. 

  • Joan Wittman says:

    September 3, 2013 at 10:13 am

    While I would much prefer a livable wage as our goal, I would rather we push for what we think is achievable and keep on working towards a livable wage.  I believe we can get $9.50 and hour this next session; I’m more doubtful about any amount higher.

    My thoughts.

  • Debra Ripp says:

    September 3, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    I agree with the $12 minimum wage, I make $3 more an hour than that and I have a hard time making it. Let’s face it, it’s expensive to live in the world these days! It used to be that if you had a fulltime 40 hour a week job, you could have pretty good quality of life.  We need to get back to that. $8 or $9 an hour belongs back in the 70’s, unless your making really good tips. People/Workers deserve that much!

  • Michael C says:

    September 3, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    For all you progressives out there, own a business, pay the bills instead of relying on someone else to take all the risk. You talk about this as if there is an endless pot at the end of the rainbow. You get upset with corporations for making to much money. Why shouldn’t they, they invested in the materials, the machinery to manufacture, the building, the staff and are the ones taking all the risk. What risk does an employee have? They don’t have to pay the bill for the lights, the rent, the heat, the materials, new machinery or to repair the old machinery. The employee does not have the pressures of R&D, sales, warranty work, shipping or meeting payroll. If you don’t produce more then you make then why should some keep you around. My rule of thumb is 5x. If I am giving you $10 an hour, you had better be making me $40 an hour or you just are not worth my time.

    If you think that’s harsh, then I know you have never owned a business. If you think the owner makes to much, then you have never owned a business.

    While to many people live from paycheck to paycheck, what would happen if companies did the same? One bad customer, one bad check and the whole thing comes crumbling down. Business needs to be able to survive the bad times as well as the good times. This creates stability in the plant and people who works for this guy is secure knowing that the office is looking out for the people on the floor.

    So get off your $15 an hour or $22 an hour and make your boss sorry he doesn’t find a way to pay you more.

    Instead of screwing around in school, pay attention. Instead of playing x-box, read a book and do your home work. A C average in school is going to give you a C average in the work place. Quit blaming everyone else for your problems and start doing something about it.

    • Mike Downing says:

      September 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      Well said Michael C.!! Education & training and being a productive life long learner is what people need to EARN a living wage.

    • Steve L says:

      September 3, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      Michael - I am a small business owner and I hope the minimum wage increases to AT LEAST $12/hr. All those extra wages go directly back into the community. It’s the right thing to do.

      I don’t play X-box, did well in school and read a lot books. It’s not about blaming others. Maybe you should quit blaming others for your lack of ability to make it in the small business world without taking advantage of your employees who are simply trying to get ahead.

      • Michael C says:

        September 3, 2013 at 2:13 pm

        I blame no one, but if you are going to work for me you had better be productive and by the way no one who works for me gets paid under $40.00 an hour.

        • Steve L says:

          September 3, 2013 at 2:46 pm

          Then why is this an issue for you?

        • tony says:

          September 3, 2013 at 3:05 pm

          As a business owner, I know that the most important asset is the quality of my employees. Yes, I work 7 days a week many weeks & pull all-nighters occasionally but our main job is to hire, train & direct our employees and they will build the company. You can work 80 hour weeks but if done wrongly you will get nothing. You must value a good employee & at $40/hr you do, so the minimum wage does not affect you unless you fear a rising tide lifting all ships. Middle class income has not risen since 1980 which shows businesses are seeing productivity gains but not sharing that gain with their employees. These people work hard & their increased experience shows great gains for the company but along the line many companies are refusing to share the spoils. Many companies had to lower salaraies in 2008-2009 to survive and are refusing to increase those salaries now that times are better. That is why the call for minimum wage increases or unions. I t is the only way for the individual employee to share in the gains we have made. Owners bring it on themselves. They did in the 1890’s & they are doing it again…

    • Debra Ripp says:

      September 3, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      Who said I was playing xbox? That is so insulting, I have been going to work everyday for 13 years and give back generously to my non-profit job helping people with disabilities contribute to their community. I have brother who had his own business for 20 years so I am aware that owning a business is no easy row to hoe either, so I empathize with your point of view. Still, it doesn’t solve the problem of minimum wage, people need to be paid a living wage to be productive, I think that’s the bottom line.

  • Mike Downing says:

    September 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    There is an unintended (at least I hope it is unintended!) consequence of having a minimum wage. The unintended consequence is higher teen and higher black unemployment. Fast food etc. jobs are intended to be entry level jobs so that people know they need more education or more training to earn a decent living. I had entry level jobs in high school and college. They helped me realize I needed to complete my college education to be successful and to support my family.

    We have far too many people who have rejected education and have rejected becoming a life long learner.

    I see no redeeming value of a minimum wage for society. It encourages people to reject education & training and become entitled.

    • tony says:

      September 3, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      Mike, obviously you did not read the stats included in the article or the follow up paragraphs. Most fast food workers are over the age of 20 & over 30% are parents. We have become a service industry nation & you can find seniors & math majors working the counter. We have currently 4 workers for every opening, so a good education is not a guarantee of a good job. Even STEM jobs are in short supply as we have a glut in these and many colleges are steering kids away from those fields as it is hard to beat a kid from India with the same degree who is willing to working for much less. Welcome to the Reagan revolution…

      • Mike Downing says:

        September 3, 2013 at 4:45 pm

        Tony, it is not my responsibility that individuals choose not to take advantage of their education, or get the training for 21st century jobs or continue to learn & grow throughout their lives.

        There are many open jobs in STEM and that is the reason we need to expand H-1B visas to fill these STEM jobs. We need skilled workers not unskilled workers in the 21st century to compete with other countries.

        • tony says:

          September 4, 2013 at 8:27 am

          Mikey… My son teaches advanced placement courses here in St Paul. Half his kids go to Ivy League schools & many of those schools are advising kids to avoid STEM now cuz everybody is going into STEM & with more people coming into the country w/masters in STEM who will work for $30000/year they can make more running a Burger King.  You cant get hired if there are no jobs for your advanced skills. There are a lot of Ph.d’s working at Starbucks. We need to bring manufacturing home so we can do like Germany and have a trade surplus & high pay…

    • Ginny says:

      September 3, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      The facts do not bear you out, Michael.
      It’s a convenient myth for conservatives. Blame the workers for their low wages. It must be their fault.
      If we looked at the facts, we might have to do something about it.

      • Mike Downing says:

        September 3, 2013 at 4:58 pm

        Guinevere or Ginnifer,

        Yes, it is indeed a shame that adults are still working at fast food entry level jobs.

        Have you not informed them that these are only entry level jobs and they need to improve their skills to get a better paying job? Have you not informed them that they should have children when they can afford to have them? Have you not taught them the concept of self responsibility? Have you not taught them microeconomics and that pay is a function of productivity?

        There is a direct correlation between output productivity and pay. A worker that can increase their output productivity gets paid more. So yes the worker is indeed in full control of their pay.

        • Ginny says:

          September 3, 2013 at 7:27 pm

          There is NO direct correlation between output productivity and pay. Look at these figures:
          Between 1979 and 2012, after accounting for inflation, the productivity of the average American worker increased about 85 percent. Over the same period, the inflation-adjusted wage of the median worker rose only about 6 percent, and the value of the minimum wage fell 21 percent. As a country, we got richer, but workers in the middle saw little of the gains, and workers at the bottom actually fell behind.
          Reagan was elected in 1980. Then came firing of 12,000 unionized air-traffic controllers and the beginning of demonizing unions, tax reductions following the “Laffer” theory of economics (otherwise know as trickle-down or in England, using an old term, the horse and sparrow economic theory), increased defense spending (paid for by lowered taxes, I guess), defunded the public sector—as you remember, he called the government the problem, not the solution, and so we started on that downward slide of lagging wages compared to productivity. Of course, the rich in contrast and as a result, did very well.
          You are delusional if you think that “the worker is in full control of their [sic] pay.”

          • says:

            September 4, 2013 at 8:56 am


            You are delusional if you believe that education and training in areas that are in high demand do not affect pay. You live in an alternative world if you think they do not affect pay.

            There was a direct correlation between education, training and skills to productive output and therefore pay at 3M. My success at 3M could not have been accomplished with a high school education. My four patents were due to my STEM degrees.

            People with STEM degrees are doing very well in this high tech world that we live in. Individuals without STEM degrees or training are doing poorly and do not have much leverage in getting higher pay or a different job. It is sad that people can’t see the obvious…

            The problem with liberals is the fact you believe in victimology and that evil companies hold back their employees. To the contrary, it is people who do not further their education and training who hold themselves back.

            Companies only succeed when companies produce output at a cost that customers will pay a price at a level that the company can make a sustainable profit. It is the market that sets the value of output. Government interference in markets cause unintended consequences, e.g. the housing bubble caused by forcing banks to give loans to people who could not afford a house.

            • tony says:

              September 4, 2013 at 9:17 am

              Hey everybody, Mike got a new address. I notice you cant refute my facts that STEM while a great education is now becoming overloaded with students. I have friends w/high levels of of STEM training and spent part of last year training his replacement in India. 5 jobs in 8 years. All are now out-sourced. Watch your back. The fact that national statistics show that middleclass income has stayed flat for 30 years while productivity has skyrocketed, shoots all kinds of holes in your statements. Need to find new talking points. Market does set value of output but companies set compensation & our parents fixed that in the early 1900’s w/unions and created the middleclass. Now you want us to give that up. Why do you hate Americans???

              • Mike Downing says:

                September 4, 2013 at 12:01 pm

                See above for a more than adequate refute of your emotion driven and not fact driven opinion.

                I love love Americans with self-responsibility who are independent and make good choices in their lives. Unfortunately, they are becoming fewer and fewer in America today.

                • Ginny says:

                  September 4, 2013 at 2:22 pm

                  You must mean those people who rake in millions, even billions, and pay no taxes—or much reduced taxes. You are probably talking about, for example, the self responsible, independent owners of the big oil companies who are very handsomely subsidized at taxpayer expense. Or maybe you are talking about the people who would strip mine the big national parks like Yosemite if it would give them a buck.
                  It’s interesting how some conservatives use as “arguments” some form of personal criticism about the commenter, or “accuse” them of not using facts but emotions (science tells us you can NOT use emotions in making decisions or determining the accuracy or truth of something—look it up), or of some other hare-brained idea like liberals are all—what did someone say? Something about victimology. (I don’t think that’s a word.)
                  Same old same old stuff about how if we’d only obey “free market” laws, we’d all be fine. Even Adam Smith didn’t believe that (look it up). There is actual proof—evidence—that that DOESN’T work.

            • Ginny says:

              September 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm

              Another arrogant male scold who denigrates other people’s opinions although you know nothing whatsoever about who I am and what I think. Anytime someone starts with, “The problem with liberals . . . ” is about to make an inaccurate, sweeping, silly statement that has no basis in reality.
              And you are completely inaccurate when you say I don’t believe that majoring in the science and technical fields make more money. They do. You cannot extrapolates from your experience or other anecdotal evidence to everyone.
              The world is wider and much more complex than you know.  Your statement about using the market to set prices (presumably and pay) is beyond naive.

        • Joan B. says:

          September 3, 2013 at 11:38 pm

          You are wrong.  The fact is that most employees do work hard at their jobs but still do NOT get increases in their pay, except for around MAYBE 20 cents an hour raise once a year.  I was speaking to a 55 year old coworker tonight at work and he told me that he didn’t see ANY raise in his other job until he had been there 10 years, and then it was only 25 cents an hour more.

  • Arthur Dorman says:

    September 3, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    $9.50 is not really enough to live on, especially for anyone with dependents, but it would be a great start from where we are now, and is more likely to win approval than going for $10 or more.  So I guess I am siding with the notion of politics being the “art of the possible.”  But $9.50 is a step, not the end game.  And how about if this is tied in to a health insurance plan that provides full coverage for anyone not earning what is an agreed-upon living wage, and pro-rated for those just above that line.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    September 3, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    I’d like to add to the discussion the information that some employers, generally the giants like WalMart, educate their grossly underpaid employees in how to apply for Medicaid, food stamps, rental assistance and any other publicly funded program that would be of help to them.

    Both the underpaid workers and all the rest of us pay extra taxes to cover the cost of these public benefits while employers like WalMart just add more kabillions to their bottom lines instead of paying a living wage.

  • Ginny says:

    September 3, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Dennis: Big shareholders have blocked any attempt to limit deductibility for CEO salaries because they are busy looking after each other. Shareholders and boards of big corporations are interlocking and they are invited to sit on other boards and then vote on how much the CEOs make. That way, when their own compensation at their own corporation comes up for a vote, they know they have all these people in their pocket. Of course they’ll agree to exorbitant compensation; then they’ll get theirs.
    Government should limit deductibility for CEO salaries to a reasonable sum. That sum could be worked out by various economists and corporate people and government agencies. Maybe $1 million—most people can probably live on that.

  • Don Nelson says:

    September 3, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    Certainly higher.  A suggestion:  set to the federal poverty level for a family of four, plus 10 per cent

    • Ginny says:

      September 4, 2013 at 10:50 am

      Do you know what federal poverty levels are? $11,490 for an individual, $23,550 for a family of 4. Now add the munificent 10% and you have, what? $12639. Big deal. Can you live on that?
      We need to change the federal poverty levels. No one can live at those levels. We need to set a wage for 40-hour weeks that families can actually live on without holding two or three jobs and resorting to food banks and various agencies for help. TAXPAYERS PAY

  • Beverly LaClair says:

    September 4, 2013 at 12:57 am

    No, it needs to be over $10.00

    • Ginny says:

      September 4, 2013 at 10:55 am

      We can pull figures out of the air and set arbitrary amounts, but we could also go at this from the other end: what does it take to support a family without resorting to public program (taxpayer-funded) and holding multiple jobs. I don’t know what that is, but it can be figured out.
      I do know that I could not live on $12,000 a year and I’ll bet no one else at this site can either. Or you wouldn’t be at a computer.

  • Mike Downing says:

    September 4, 2013 at 12:04 pm


    You simply do not know what you are talking about. Americans have not gone into STEM over the last 20-30 years. MN teachers have been emphasising STEM classes because their is job demand and good earning potential in STEM. At this point in time, we need foreign students who get STEM degrees to stay here after graduation with an increase in H-1B visas. Only 30% of STEM graduate school is comprised of American born students. This needs to change…

    Your PhD examples must be in history, English, communications, psychology, sociology, etc. and certainly not STEM.

    PhDs in STEM start out at $60,000-$100,000 and frequently earn $200,000 with experience.