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St. Paul City Council Hears Passionate Public Comments on Proposed $15 Minimum Wage

From the Pioneer Press, Fredrick Melo, September 12, 2018

A St. Paul high school teacher called for a $15 minimum wage to be implemented within three years instead of as many as seven. Even with a $15 minimum, a concerned father worried how his daughter, who pays $900 monthly for a one-bedroom apartment, would afford housing after the $100 rent hike on the horizon.

The owner of a fast-food franchise questioned whether employers would still hire the teens and disabled workers who make up most of his workforce. A single mother said part-time restaurant work on the weekends allowed her the flexibility to take care of her 3-year-old daughter—and she worried that she would lose money, rather than gain, under a $15 minimum that doesn’t include exemptions for tipped workers.

At least 50 residents, business owners, community organizers, and activists participated in a public hearing before the St. Paul City Council to discuss an issue that has rankled labor and industry from coast to coast—a $15 minimum wage.

At the request of the Council, the Citizens League recently published a report outlining three ways St. Paul could implement a $15 minimum wage citywide, for businesses of all sizes, within seven years or less. One scenario, the least popular with the league’s 14-week study committee, would allow a partial exemption, or “tip credit,” for tipped workers in restaurants that serve liquor.

In all three scenarios, employers would be expected to pay the state minimum to disabled workers. Youth workers in City approved job readiness programs could also be paid less than the citywide minimum during their first few months of employment.

Mayor Melvin Carter, who made the wage issue a centerpiece of his 2017 campaign and the City Council, have committed to voting on a plan by the end of the year. As of January 1, 2018, the minimum wage in Minnesota was $7.87 for small businesses and $9.65 for large businesses. Those numbers will go up about 20 cents in 2019.

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