Several Minnesota elected officials from around the state took part in a Minimum Wage Challenge last month to experience what it’s like to live on the state’s minimum wage. Advocates for raising the state’s minimum wage have emphasized that it’s not just workers in large urban areas who need the increase.
All too often, they say, political issues in Minnesota are presented as pitting the interests of the Twin Cities metro area against those of the rest of the state, also known as “Greater Minnesota.” But despite the rhetoric, raising the minimum wage cuts across all geographic boundaries.
Heidi Durand, a city councilmember from Moorhead, Minnesota, just across the border from Fargo, North Dakota, discovered as much when she joined Working America’s Minimum Wage Challenge.
“I grew up in a working class home and I always knew my mom was an expert at stretching a dollar,” Councilmember Durand said, “And like a tidal wave, this challenge has brought her values back into my life.”
The minimum wage budget in 2014 is harder to stretch than it was when Durand was growing up. The value of the federal minimum wage of $7.25, adjusted for inflation, is worth $2 less today than it was in 1968.
If the minimum wage had risen with inflation since 1968, it would stand at around $10.50. Minnesota’s current minimum wage is just $6.15, although most workers are covered under the current $7.25 federal minimum.
As part of the Minimum Wage Challenge, Durand went shopping in Moorhead with the weekly food budget of $35. Her haul included Ramen noodles, beef, eggs, and soup, bypassing more expensive fruits and vegetables.
“It was disappointing to have to spend the bulk of my money on products that contain at least 35 percent of your daily allowance for sodium,” she told reporters, studying the nutrition facts on a can of soup.
“You think about one person and $35 and think, ‘Well, that’s not that bad,” Durand said, “but we’ll see…I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it on $35 this week.” More than 58,000 Minnesota workers who earn less than $9.50 an hour have children who depend on them, stretching that $35 food budget even further
Councilmember Durand, along with Minnesota Reps. Karen Clark, Frank Hornstein, John Lesch, Jason Metsa, and Shannon Savick, took the challenge to raise awareness of the minimum wage; never forgetting that more than 256,000 Minnesota workers currently making less than $9.50 live that challenge every day and don’t have the option of returning to a more secure lifestyle.
It appears likely that Minnesota state legislators will approve in this session a minimum wage increase to $9.50 an hour for large employers. Remaining in doubt is just when the increase will take effect and if it will be automatically indexed to increase with inflation.
Information from several sources was compiled into this story.