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Hodges listens to workers, pledges effort to help raise state minimum wage

“It’s a good thing to do, it’s a good thing for the state, and it’s a good thing for the economy,” said Mayor Betsy Hodges on Wednesday.

Mayor Betsy Hodges listening to workers from Target, Walmart and employees of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport at the home of Jose Cabrera on Wednesday.
MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach

Within the comfort of his home, Jose Cabrera was able to tell Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges what an increase in the state’s minimum wage would mean to his family. She was sitting 2 feet away from him on his couch.

Through a translator, Cabrera told Hodges about his low-paying job cleaning for Target. In the 13 years he’s worked there, Cabrera has never seen a raise. “What I’m making right now is not enough to support my kids, my wife and my new granddaughter, who was just born,” Cabrera said.

Hodges nodded as he and a handful of other workers from Target, Walmart and employees of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport explained the hardships of working for minimum wage. Hodges, who was officially sworn into office about a week ago, now wants to join the fight at the Legislature to increase their pay. 

“The struggles that janitors are having, the struggles that people at the airport are having are the struggles of our community,” Hodges told the group gathered at the home in Minneapolis Wednesday afternoon. “We can do it. Si, se puede!”

Talks to be renewed at Capitol

Lawmakers heading back to St. Paul in February for the 2014 session will renew talks to increase the state’s minimum wage, which currently sits at $6.15 per hour for large employers. Most employers pay the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

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Talks surrounding a raise in the minimum wage stalled last year when the DFL-controlled House and Senate couldn’t reach a compromise in the waning hours of the 2013 session. The House passed a proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 per hour by 2015, while the Senate’s bill would have raised the wage to $7.75 per hour.

The Minneapolis City Council has already approved a legislative agenda item to support a minimum-wage increase adjusted to inflation, but the council hasn’t set an amount for how high it would like to see the wage raised. President Barack Obama recently encouraged Hodges to consider a minimum-wage increase when he spoke with mayors from around the country at a meeting in Washington, D.C. “He was clear about income equality,” Hodges said.  

Action in major cities

Cities around the nation are raising wages for employees. The new mayor of Seattle, Ed Murray, recently said he will push a $15 minimum wage for all city employees, and the District of Columbia City Council recently backed an $11.50 minimum wage. After a Jan. 1 increase, the city of San Francisco’s minimum wage clocked in at $10.55 per hour. But that doesn’t mean Hodges wants to go ahead and raise the minimum wage for just the city of Minneapolis.

“The best strategy is to work statewide and bring the partnership together,” Hodges said. “It’s a good thing to do, it’s a good thing for the state, and it’s a good thing for the economy.”

New Ward 9 City Councilwoman Alondra Cano encouraged attendees at the meeting to target state senators who are hesitant about giving the state’s minimum wage a significant bump. She warned that the House is up for re-election next fall, and if Democrats lose the chamber they could lose their shot at increasing the wage.

“If we lose more seats it might be harder to get something done,” Cano said. “We have to act now.”