Proposal puts limit on minimum wage increases

By Nicole Brodzik
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A new bill that would create a mandatory statewide minimum wage has been introduced to the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Representative from District 33A, Republican Jerry Hertaus, is one of four Republican authors on a new bill that aims to stop individual cities from setting their own minimum wage requirements. The bill’s description reads simply, “statewide uniform minimum wage required” and would stop cities that might want to raise the minimum within city limits. Minnesota’s minimum wage is currently $7.75 an hour for small employers and $9.50 an hour for large employers.

Hertaus, whose district includes St. Bonifacius,  said that he sees more bad than good when it comes to individual city governments setting their own wage limits.

“The main thing is fairness,” he said. “The government should be involved in making sure businesses are safe. We want to create jobs, not eliminate them.”

Hertaus said he’s already seeing how higher minimums are forcing businesses to turn to electronics over paid employees.

“Just last Friday, I was with my wife at our favorite movie theater and for the first time in years, there was no one selling tickets,” Hertaus said. “We put our credit card in a machine and it prints them out for you right there. Those machines are taking away jobs from our youth that help them learn the importance of showing up on time and help them build experience.”

And there are other issues that Hertaus said many people don’t think about when it comes to certain kinds of businesses that work in multiple cities.

“Let’s say you own a window washing company,” he said. “You find work to do across the city limits, into say Minneapolis, and now you’re subject to paying a new wage. It would be very onerous.”

Hertaus also said that he isn’t against local control, but he said he fears that allowing cities to set their own minimum wages could result in confusing and out of control situations.

“As a former mayor, I have no problem with local control, but this is a slippery slope,” Hertaus said. “What is the cutoff? What’s stopping cities then from raising it to $30 an hour? $50 an hour? There’s no assurance that local governments would all be reasonable.”

Ginger Jentzen works for 15 Now MN, an organization that is pushing for the minimum wage hike in Minnesota, and particularly in Minneapolis, to rise to $15 an hour.

“This type of legislation is being pushed across the country,” she said. “We’re not surprised. Legislators are being emboldened by (newly-elected President Donald) Trump and the Republican hold on the national Congress.”

The City of Minneapolis has been looking at raising the minimum wage for some time. The University of Minnesota’s Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice, and Humphrey School of Public Affairs published a technical report in September on the effects of a minimum wage increase. The study found that food service, retail, non-hospital health and administrative support were the industries that would be most affected by a minimum wage increase. It also found that most minimum wage workers had at least some college education, were not currently in school, worked about 35 hours a week and were over the age of 25.

The legislation co-authored by Hertaus does have a subdivision section that states many workers employed by local governments would not be subject to the mandatory statewide minimum. It defines local government as “a statutory or home rule charter city, town, county, Metropolitan Council, Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, Metropolitan Airports Commission, other metropolitan agencies, and other political subdivisions.”

An issue that could come from a higher minimum wage in Minneapolis is that businesses could choose to take their operations elsewhere, which was a major factor in creating this legislation, according to Hertaus.

“It’s important that there is an even playing field,” he said. “When companies are moving into Minneapolis or St. Paul and have put in all this money for equipment and property, you can’t just pick up and move when you have that long term business plan figured out if you suddenly can’t afford to pay employees.”

Jentzen said she doesn’t see companies going under or trying to leave town because of a higher minimum wage.

“We want to shop and do everything in the communities we live in,” she said. “A lot of these low wage jobs are in the service sector. I’m not going to drive to Burnsville to get a cup of coffee or get my groceries.”

Jentzen also says she sees a hike in the minimum wage helping to close the socio-economic gap for many different racial groups in Minneapolis. The study conducted by the University of Minnesota backed her sentiment, stating that, “Nonwhite employees are more likely to be affected by an increase in the minimum wage than white workers, when controlling for the number of workers in each group.”

Jentzen said this legislation should be a call to action for low wage workers. She and 15 Now MN planned to participate in demonstrations during the weekend of Donald Trump’s inauguration. For more information on 15 Now MN, visit http://15nowmn.nationbuilder.com/

For more information on the legislation, visit: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/bills/bill.php?b=House&f=HF0180&ssn=0&y=2017.