In the week or so since the Star Tribune reported my thoughts about the best path forward for a minimum-wage increase, some people have respectfully asked for more information about where I stand on support for working families. I am happy to provide that here.
Wages in the American economy for low-income and middle-class workers and families have stagnated in the last 40 years. The gap between low- and middle-income workers on the one hand, and the highest-paid people on the other, is the widest it’s been in nearly a century. In our region, people of color and women disproportionately suffer the consequences of such inequality. That shameful gap, unfortunately, continues to widen as family-supporting jobs are harder and harder to come by. This structural income inequality has devastating economic effects, and devastating social and moral effects as well. It hurts all of us, no matter our income, gender or race.
For these and other reasons, I support higher wages for low- and middle-income families generally, and I support increasing minimum wages. I was part of the broad coalition at the State Capitol last year in the fight for the minimum-wage victory here in Minnesota. I have stood with fast-food workers in Minneapolis to support industry-wide minimum-wage increases in that sector. For the good of our economy and the good of all of us, the minimum wage in our country and our state should be higher.
In the bigger picture, I strongly support reviving collective bargaining in the private sector overall. It’s a key part of our collective future prosperity. Our country’s 30-year, post-war economic boom was built on the foundation of strong unions, and our economic stagnation since then is due in large part to the weakening of collective bargaining in the private sector.
Collective bargaining and broad-based minimum-wage increases are two powerful tools to support and elevate working families. There are many potential tools in our tool belts that could make a big difference for working people: I am weighing all of those policy choices so that we have the best outcomes possible in Minneapolis for low-wage workers and their families.
In addition to the urgent need for state and federal action to raise the minimum wage, I believe we can explore a regional approach to raising it. Such an approach might fit our region and our families well.
I have also studied work other cities have done and are doing on municipal minimum-wage increases. Comparatively, Minneapolis alone doesn’t dominate our region the way Seattle, Chicago and New York dominate theirs. We are also unique among metro regions in having two core cities, not one, and suburbs that are home to significant numbers of minimum-wage jobs as well: Saint Paul and Bloomington are rich in the kind of jobs and businesses that would be affected by an increase. I believe Minneapolis’ going alone on a minimum-wage increase in this environment doesn’t make strategic sense for the long-term health and prosperity of the city.
I am also concerned in this context about two harmful proposals at the State Legislature. One bill would roll back last year’s statewide minimum-wage success by instituting a tip credit, which is nothing more than a loophole that would create two classes of low-wage workers. Unfortunately, Seattle took this approach to its minimum wage. This regressive policy has no place in our state and should not be part of any minimum-wage proposal.
Second, another bill would ban any city not only from raising its own minimum wage, but from requiring paid sick time. In this context, it is unwise to pursue a one-city, go-it-alone strategy, because it would create a target for legislators who are hostile to minimum-wage increases to pass laws to preclude them altogether at the local level.
I support a wide array of policies that would support and uplift working people and working families. I support minimum-wage increases as one of those policies. I was proud of us as a state last year when we made it a priority to increase the minimum wage, with indexing, and I know the good it is already doing for everyone in Minnesota. I also believe an innovative regional approach to the minimum wage may be promising. I am proud to be part of the broad conversation in Minneapolis about how to best support working families to build wealth and how best to support low-income workers improve their lives. I have been and continue to be engaged in that conversation and, along with others, am weighing the best policy options moving forward. There is a lot we can do and will do to ensure that all of Minneapolis can participate in and benefit from our growth and prosperity. Together we can find that path forward.