To the editor:
The minimum wage has become an item of controversy in Minnesota this year and raising it was clearly labeled a threat by a recent letter to the editor in The Journal. The writer, however, did not tell the whole story, plus I wish to describe how an increase in the minimum wage is needed so that we can raise people up from living in poverty and could even result in an increase to employment.
Mr. Thom stated that the "state representatives recently passed a measure that would increase the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour" in Minnesota. Technically that did pass but only by the Minnesota House of Representatives. He also charged that the measure would bring about increased unemployment. That is a temporary possibility but I will point out how this short term prospect could be more than made up for in the long run.
Remember that bills must pass both houses of our legislature and in the same language and then signed into law by the Governor. Yes, the House did pass a $9.50 measure but our Minnesota Senate passed a similar measure that would only increase the minimum wage to $7.75 and not until 2015. When the two houses do not agree then a compromise committee must try to work out an agreement so it is very unlikely that an increase to the minimum wage will be anywhere near $9.50. And if there is no compromise agreement then there will be no increase at all. Please be aware also that the federal government has a minimum wage set at $7.25.
Currently the minimum wage in Minnesota is a very low $6.15 (and only $5.25 for small businesses) and we are one of only four states to have a minimum wage that is actually below the $7.25 minimum wage set up Congress in Washington, D.C. Please be aware, however, that many workers in Minnesota are already at the $7.25 figure set by the federal government. In addition, there are five states with no minimum wage laws at all (all in our deep South), 22 states with their standard at the same federal amount, and 19 states with a higher minimum wage law that already exceeds the federal standard. In Minnesota we are clearly lagging behind the nation when it comes to paying our workers and it is time to make up for the past.
We have all read about how many at the top economically are doing very well in recent years while the middle class and those who are paid the least in our nation are lagging way behind on keeping up financially. Poverty is truly a tragedy in such a wealthy country and if you are paid a minimum wage then you are living in poverty. Increase the minimum wage and those at the unfortunate bottom of our society will be spending virtually all of their additional wages just to pay the bills, put food on their table, and purchase what we would all consider to be necessities. It will not sit in bank accounts but will be spent which puts all that money back into circulation. So, even if there is a temporary increase in unemployment when minimum wage increases go into effect more people will be hired or hired back as soon as those minimum wage workers start spending their increases.
Minnesota truly needs some degree of an increase to its minimum wage and soon.
Lowell G. Liedman