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05/2/2014 | Raising the Bar for Workers and Families

TakeAction MN and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change Help Raise the Wage

With victories this year in Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, and West Virginia, the wave of action around raising the minimum wage has continued to spread.

After 15 months of organizing, lobbying, and relentless media work, Minnesota has raised its minimum wage.  Our core partners TakeAction Minnesota and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, and their close allies in the Minnesotans for a Fair Economy coalition, have been on the front lines. 

The previous state minimum wage of $6.15/hour was one of the lowest in the country. The new wage is $9.50/hour, indexed to inflation, and is of the highest in the nation. The new law gives an estimated 321,000 low-paid workers in the state a much-needed raise.

The overall advocacy campaign was led by the Raise the Wage coalition – a broad group of community, labor, and faith organizations, principally staffed and led by the Minnesota AFL-CIO.

Throughout the fall and winter, organizers amplified the voices and experiences of low-wage workers.  Last November, on Black Friday, Take Action Minnesota and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, along with SEIU, ISAIAH, CTUL, and many others, led a demonstration of more than 1,000 people who shut down Minnesota’s busiest intersection on the busiest shopping day of the year.  26 people were arrested.  

Public support for raising the wage was animated with people showing their support in many different ways: including phone banks, door to door canvassing, online actions and emails, and numerous community forums with legislators throughout the state.  The coalition marched in late February in support of single moms, and staged another march on a Walmart that was suppressing worker organizing.       

Their hard work resulted in the following:

  • Raising the minimum wage for businesses with gross sales of more than $500,000 to $8.00 in August 2014, $8.50 in August 2015 and $9.50 in 2016.
  • Raising the wage for businesses under $500,000 in gross sales over three years to $7.75 by 2016.
  • There is no penalty for tipped workers.
  • Requiring large employers to pay $7.75 to 16- and 17-year-olds, as a 90-day training wage for 18- and 19-year-olds, and to those working under a J1 visa. Many northern Minnesota resorts hire international workers and give them free room and board.  
  • Starting in 2018, increasing wages annually on Jan. 1 by an inflation metric capped at 2.5 percent.
  • Giving the commissioner of Department of Labor and Industry the authority to suspend the indexed increase for a year if indicators forecast an economic downturn. The commissioner must take public comment before any action is taken, creating an organizing opportunity for advocates should the need occur.  The suspended increase could be added back in a subsequent year.

The coalition and grassroots network built through this campaign will now turn its attention to other issues facing women and low-wage workers.  Top on that list is passing Earned Sick & Safe Time in 2015.