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Why Minnesota legislators want to block local officials’ ability to increase the minimum wage

Members of the 15Now Minnesota organization in the May Day parade
Members of the 15Now Minnesota organization participated in the May Day parade last month.

Someone — perhaps Thomas Jefferson — said that the best government is the government closest to the people.

That might be the rationale for activists hoping to pressure city councils to take on issues on behalf of the working poor that were once thought to be the province of state and federal officials. Of course, it could also just reflect the fact that local governments in large American cities tend to be dominated by liberal voters and elected officials who are more open to taking action on minimum wages and paid sick leave when state and federal politicians won’t. 

Now, in response to a handful of victories in places like Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles to raise the minimum wage above the state requirement (and to the 19 local governments that have imposed paid sick leave), trade groups are taking the issues to the level of government where they are strongest: convincing state Legislatures to pass laws that would block the ability of municipal governments’ to pass wage and benefit ordinances. 

In other words, government closest to the people is best — unless you’re losing there. Then government a bit further away, be it in state capitals or Washington, D.C., begins to look a lot better.

Pushback from the Minnesota Legislature

The fight is slowly converging in Minnesota. For nearly a year, activists organized as 15Now Minnesota have been pushing a $15-per-hour minimum wage in Minneapolis and at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. (The Seattle-based organization had its first victory via a voter-approved initiative in SeaTac, the Washington city that contains Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.)

While Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has said she does not support the city acting alone when it comes to changing the minimum wage, she is pushing for other local-only changes. Her Working Families Agenda calls for local ordinances requiring private employers to offer paid sick leave. She also wants local programs to enforce fair pay laws and to require employers to give better notice when work schedules are changed or canceled. (A similar package was introduced in the state Legislature, but did not make much progress.)

Many of those initiatives are still in the discussion stage. Hodges and the city council have agreed to form two staff-council work groups: one to study the effects of a Minneapolis-only minimum wage; the other to prepare ordinances on the Working Families Agenda for debate later this year.

Yet even these cautious steps prompted pushback at the state Legislature. Earlier this year, Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake, introduced a bill that would have preempted Minnesota cities and counties from imposing minimum wages or private-sector benefits in excess of state or federal government requirements. The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by two Republicans and three DFLers, including chief sponsor Lyle Koenen, of Clara City.

Supporters of the measures include the Minnesota Retailers Association and the Minnesota Restaurant Association. “Minnesota’s entry-level wage should be uniform across the state in order to allow retailers to compete on a level playing field,” wrote the retailers group in its 2015 legislative priorities. “Local wages above the state minimum will have an impact at the retail level, resulting in higher prices for consumers and threatened local jobs, especially given the mobile nature of commerce today.”

The House language didn’t end up in the final omnibus jobs bill that Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed, but did find its way into the House omnibus jobs bill that passed on a mostly party-line vote. Minneapolis elected officials took the bills seriously enough to send a letter of protest to Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, chair of the House jobs and energy committee.

“As locally elected officials, we are honored to be given the opportunity to make local decisions on behalf of the residents of Minneapolis, and we are best able to respond to the needs and values of our neighborhoods and the city as a whole when we have the power to do so,” said the letter signed by Hodges, Council President Barbara Johnson and Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden.

Glidden said this week the letter was kept general in order to keep the focus on the principle of local flexibility. Though the current debate is around minimum wage and paid leave, Glidden said, tomorrow it could be something else.”

Preemption is not expected to reappear at the upcoming special session of the Legislature. And Council Member Alondra Cano, the city’s most outspoken advocate for a higher local minimum wage, said she isn’t sure how far the preemption bill would have advanced in the Legislature given the Democratic control of the Senate and the governor’s office.

But it did seem to suggest that GOP legislators think cities have the legal authority to act on their own. That is something of a gray area now; while there is no specific preemption in state law, neither is their express authority.

Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal said she thinks the city would be on “solid legal ground” on wages and benefits ordinances under its general police powers and its authority to protect public health.

But Dan McElroy, executive vice president of the restaurant association, said the law is less clear and that the association maintains that Minneapolis and other cities are already prevented from acting independently of the state. Minnesota is a “Dillon’s Rule” state, named for an Iowa judge who ruled that local governments can only exercise power explicitly or implicitly granted by their state governments. According to an explanation of the rule by the National League of Cities, “State constitutions vary in the level of power they grant to local governments. However, Dillon’s Rule states that if there is a reasonable doubt whether a power has been conferred to a local government, then the power has not been conferred.”

Strategy based on the tobacco wars

Minnesota is among many states debating the issue. As more and more cities adopt pay and benefit ordinances, more and more states are stepping in to preempt. A recent USA Today article noted that President Obama — beginning with this year’s State of the Union address — has been pushing states and cities to take wage and benefit actions he cannot get through Congress. The article ran the same day Obama’s Labor Secretary Thomas Perez was in the Twin Cities as part of a “Lead on Leave” tour, thanking St. Paul and Minneapolis for giving paid parental leave to city workers.

“It’s been a good year and a bad year,” said Mark Pertschuk, director of Preemption Watch in Oakland, a project of Grassroots Change that promotes local efforts to promote public health initiatives. “Where democracy is functioning is at the local level,” he said, but added that “it’s been particularly challenging as far as state preemption.”

Eleven states have preempted local governments from requiring paid sick leave for private-sector workers. Pertschuk says the strategy of keeping local governments from imposing stricter regulation than states was pioneered by the tobacco industry, after cigarette companies became alarmed by anti-smoking ordinances passed by local governments in the 1980s and 1990s.

Ellen Bravo is executive director of Family Values @ Work, which works with local partners to push for benefits such as paid sick leave. She traces pushback to politicians in her home state of Wisconsin, especially Republican Gov. Scott Walker. After Milwaukee voters approved a paid-sick-leave initiative — and after it withstood legal challenges from opponents — Walker successfully pushed a preemption bill that blocked it. That law was later discussed at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative group that pushes for business-friendly bills at statehouses around the country, eventually leading to an update of the group’s model legislation, the “Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act.”

“Because they couldn’t compete at the city level, they tried to take away the right of citizens to make these decisions for themselves,” Bravo said. Just as wage and benefit advocates are focusing more organizational power at local governments, ALEC has recently formed the American City County Exchange to influence action — and reaction — at the local government level.

Broad public support for issues

Regardless of what level of government is considering it, Americans support higher minimum wages and paid leave, according to national polling. An Associated Press-GfK survey conducted in February, for example, found that 60 percent of those asked endorsed higher minimum wages, paid sick leave and paid parental leave.

Support in larger cities, which often have higher percentages of Democratic-leaning voters, is likely even higher for such measures. That provides political cover for local elected officials. Still, the movement has been relatively slow building and has blossomed only in the last year, after a handful of cities managed to pass minimum wage increases and paid parental leave. Even then, it was activists leading elected officials on the issue, rather than the other way around.

As Minnesota’s largest and most liberal city, Minneapolis is being pushed to play the leading role on the issues in Minnesota. Cano said she hopes the task force study on the minimum wage will identify both facts and myths about the economic effects of a city having a higher wage than those surrounding it.

Already the business community is expressing concerns. “While Minneapolis plays a central role in the Twin Cities economy, the city is not as dominant within the region as is the case for other municipalities examining similar policies,” stated a letter to Hodges and the council co-signed by nine business groups, including the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Council and the Minnesota Restaurant Association. The letter said the signers would take the city’s invitation for “robust stakeholder engagement.”

The Restaurant Association’s McElroy, who also represents the state’s hotel and resorts and campgrounds trade groups, said he is concerned about “patchwork” rules that will be difficult for businesses with locations in different jurisdiction to meet. But he said the business groups are willing to talk about ways to have paid sick leave and accurate scheduling and payrolls, though he saw flaws in many of the proposals unveiled so far.

“We’re working with other trade organizations to be responsible but also be concerned,” McElroy said.

But Ellen Bravo, of Family Values @ Work, said she hears double talk when business groups say they prefer statewide standards. “They say ‘no hodgepodge of regulations’ and ‘you can’t have one size fits all,’” Bravo said. “But the uniform standard they want is zero. No paid sick days.”

Comments (44)

  1. Submitted by John Appelen on 06/09/2015 - 12:22 pm.

    Local Control Good except

    It is interesting that the GOP seems resistant to local control in this case when it is usually the DFL that plays that game. (ie mining regs, bullying laws, social security, healthcare programs, etc, etc, etc)

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/09/2015 - 01:16 pm.

    It’s called Class Warfare.

    We know which class lawmakers tend support and defend.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/09/2015 - 03:16 pm.

      Problems Now

      You think Minneapolis has problems with unemployment and poverty now, it would be interesting to see what it would look like after it raised the minimum wage to $15 / hr. I am sure the surrounding burbs would appreciate the additional businesses. And the cost increases at the Mpls businesses who stayed would feel a bit like class warfare.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/09/2015 - 03:43 pm.

        This experiment has been tried

        Adjoining counties separated by a state line;
        one raising the minimum wage while the other held it constant.
        No transfer of resources resulted.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/09/2015 - 06:04 pm.


          Would you be willing to provide a source?

          Also, what was the wage differential? This would be $5 / hr or a 50+% raise / cost increase. Pretty substantial.

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/10/2015 - 10:05 am.

            How about this for a source?


            “To date, three rigorous studies have examined the employment impacts of San Francisco’s and Santa Fe’s local minimum wage laws. Each finds no statistically significant negative effects on employment or hours (including in low-wage industries such as restaurants) . . . Researchers find that increases in the minimum wage reduce employee turnover, translating into a reduction in direct costs (recruitment, selection, and training of new workers) and a reduction in indirect costs (lost sales, lower quality service, and lost productivity as the new workers learn on the job). Some studies have also identified additional benefits of higher wages, including improved morale, improved work performance, and reductions in absenteeism.”

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/09/2015 - 06:54 pm.

        And to repeat

        Raising the minimum wage means that those who earn it have more money to spend.
        This is not likely to depress the economy.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/09/2015 - 08:52 pm.


          I don’t think it will depress the economy of Minneapolis.

          I think it will just encourage businesses to move those jobs out of that small zone if they can. And do you think these folks who are making more will choose to pay higher prices in that zone instead of shopping outside of it? I mean many people shop online to avoid taxes and buy foreign to keep costs low. So if someone lives in Mpls and works in Robbinsdale, their costs will go up but their wages won’t.

          Or maybe I do think it may cause problems.

  3. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 06/09/2015 - 01:41 pm.

    In this discussion it’s curious to see which “side” is the only one threatening anything: the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Council, associations representing those in retail or hospitality industries who pay their workers so poorly that we taxpayers have to provide them with food stamps, etc.

    All the workers want is the ability to live on their wages. And you can’t live on the minimum wage, even with the dinky raises provided by Walmart and friends recently ($10 an hour at Walmart next year for technical advisors and department managers! Whoopee!)

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/09/2015 - 03:23 pm.


      Just curious. Do you make a habit personally of paying people more than you need to to get a job done? If you can hire someone who is happy to mow your lawn for $15, do you insist on paying them $25?

      If you want to raise wages in the USA, just deport all of those who are illegally here and depressing the wages on these low knowledge jobs.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/09/2015 - 05:04 pm.

        To extend your analogy

        When taxpayers subsidize low wage employers, by paying SNAP benefits, medical assistance, housing subsidies, you are creating a situation akin to paying $15 to have your lawn mowed, and expecting all of your neighbors to chip in to pay the extra $10.

        There is no conclusive evidence showing that illegal immigration depresses the wages of low knowledge workers.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/09/2015 - 06:12 pm.

          Get Real

          Paying benefits should be the favorite way for Liberals to help low income workers. I mean only the income tax payers get hit with the extra cost, not the low income workers you are trying to help. Whereas minimum wage increases will raise costs for everyone, including those with low incomes.

          If there are really 17,000,000 illegal workers in country doing those jobs, how could this not be holding down the wages for those types of jobs? The big question is would poor American’s be willing to do those jobs even if they paid a bit more. Or is our welfare system more attractive to them?

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/10/2015 - 09:18 am.


            And here I thought conservatives believed in the dignity of work and the value of having people be self-supporting. Who knew that meant “pay as little as possible; the taxpayers will pick up the slack?”

            “If there are really 17,000,000 illegal workers in country doing those jobs . . .” That’s a big “if.” The Department of Homeland Security puts the figure of illegals in the country (not all of whom are necessarily working, or working steadily) at 11.4 million. That’s still a sizable number, but significantly lower than your figure.

            There has been a lot of study about the effects of immigration generally on wages. Most of it (at least, the study not driven by an agenda) has concluded that immigration’s effect on wages is minimal.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/10/2015 - 09:20 pm.

              What is a Fair Wage

              I believe the correct statement may be more like this. “Pay a competitive wage, based on the complexity, difficulty and requirements of the job in that labor market. And let the tax payers subsidize those who did not work hard in school and develop the knowledge / skills / work ethic to get hired at a better paying job.”

              Looks like the number of employed is lower. Apparently the ~11 million is about 5% of our work force, and you really think that does not depress wages?

              • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/11/2015 - 09:25 am.

                “[D]evelop the knowledge / skills / work ethic . . .”

                A good work ethic will help everybody, but there are a finite number of jobs that will require more knowledge or skills. Better training and education will certainly help more people, but it isn’t a universal solution.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/11/2015 - 12:37 pm.

                  Finite Number

                  Remember how this works, wages go up when a shortage of qualified applicants occur.
                  As people get more qualified and fill higher end positions, there will be fewer candidates available for the low end jobs., therefore wages will increase.

                  Please remember that a lot of those jobs were sent over seas because we have a shortage of highly qualified personnel. Therefore some of those jobs will come back if our citizens have the right skill set. They may need to pay a bit less than what they used to, but it will be better than $15/hr.

                  And maybe someday the American Consumers will be willing to pay a bit more to support higher incomes for American citizens. (it could happen… maybe…)

                  • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/11/2015 - 04:32 pm.

                    “[A] shortage of highly qualified personnel . . .”

                    Nonsense. Corporate America sent jobs overseas because they learned they could pay lower wages, or shift the work to contractors who would produce goods in facilities that are kindly described as nightmarish.

                    Or do you think the workers in Bangladesh are more qualified to make t-shirts than workers in, say, South Carolina?

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/12/2015 - 07:19 am.

                      Chickens and Eggs

                      The companies I work with often move things to other countries to keep the company in business and operating. Another firm (often foreign) is already producing part or all of their product in a low cost country and the American Consumers start buying that product because it is a better value for them.

                      Take a look at the tons of American companies that failed by fighting the necessity to reduce costs.

                      Remember: most American companies would love to have competitive American plants. There is less lead time, the employees speak English, the employees have a similar culture., they work on the same time zone, etc. However the American employee costs need to be at least close or the company will fail.

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/12/2015 - 09:54 am.

                      Employee costs

                      The minimum wage for a garment worker in Bangladesh is $38 per month. There comes a point where it is unrealistic to expect American workers to compete on the basis of cost.

                  • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/12/2015 - 07:20 am.

                    There are what

                    8 billion people in the world now? Not to mention free traders knocking down trade walls continually. There will never be a labor shortage, in anything more than the very short term, ever again. It will interesting when this tide catches up to the folks who think they’ve nothing to worry about. Those who’ve “improved” themselves. I wonder if they realize that improvement had better include an ability to live on a buck or so an hour as there is already someone just as good as they are ready and waiting. Reap what you sew I guess.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/12/2015 - 12:40 pm.

                      1 Billion or 8 Billion

                      What doe the number really matter?

                      That is also the number that need food, shelter, healthcare, technology, toys, etc. That is why the free trade agreements are so important, we want to sell to those growing middle class markets without as many hurdles.

                      Now will the citizens of USA be able to justify 4+ bedroom 3+ bathroom houses, cars, trips, etc that cost more than people in most countries make. Maybe not… Remember that most homes were pretty small here into the 60’s and 70’s. (ie first ring cities and first ring burbs)

                      We have been living large compared to the rest of the world, only by eliminating free loaders and other wastes will we be able to stay that way. Every body needs to pull their own weight except the disabled.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/12/2015 - 07:04 pm.

                      Some very big assumptions

                      1. That the rest of the world even aspires to the lifestyle we lead, and will be willing to fund this robust export economy you seek. 2. That the power brokers in the areas you refer to are willing to allow something like the former American middle class spring up in their midst, leeching power from what has been up to now in some areas a very select group of elite. 3. That any of these jobs, anywhere, will not simply fall victim to the technological advance you folks so like to crow about as “progress”.

                      What is it that you will do when there simply isn’t a need for a good portion of society? Silly optimists paint it as utopia, human history doesn’t paint as pretty a picture.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/13/2015 - 10:36 am.

                      Interesting Question

                      I always wonder what our future will look like…
                      – Star Trek where everything is good and there seem to be no free loaders, drug addicts, poor people, etc.
                      – Blade Runner where things are dark dirty and depressing

                      I agree that people should fear automation more than free trade. The robots are coming, the robots are coming !!! I really am not sure what those who choose to fail in school will do in the future. Hopefully they will begin to understand that being academic failures does not lead to middle class or wealth.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/13/2015 - 01:37 pm.

                      Another assumption

                      That whether one succeeds academically or not will have any bearing on one’s employment. I ask again, what do those who feel “safe” from the current tide of job loss plan tondo when they are next on the chopping block, and all the “self improvement” in the world is unable to compete with slave labor wages elsewhere? I get that many, in a comforting bit of self-delusion, feel that such things apply to only other, lesser, folks. The problem is we move towards a future where nearly everyone will fall into that category. We’ve already shifted into an economy constructed mainly on the promise of convienience and entertainment. When the maximum levels of each are reached, which isn’t too far off in my estimation, what will we sell then? Who will be left to sell it.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 06/13/2015 - 11:29 pm.

                      Thats It

                      I am going to commit hara kiri right here and now… Not.

                      You are correct. We have a lot of challenges coming. People had terrible challenges decades, centuries and millennia ago… Yet we are still here, for the most part healthier, smarter, wealthier and more democratic than ever. Cheer up, be optimistic and be ready for continuous change. Things are not going to slow down anytime soon.

  4. Submitted by Ray Lewis on 06/09/2015 - 06:39 pm.

    Health impact of minimum wages and paid leave

    Related to the local preemption focus of the article about how and who gets to determine aspects of the work environment are the underlying policy topics of wages and sick time, and how they relate to health. The Minnesota Department of Health has taken a health in all policies lens to document the scientific evidence, as we know it, in multiple white papers.

    1) 2014 White Paper on Income and Health. Minnesota Department of Health.

    This white paper presents research and data on income and poverty in Minnesota and documents the relationship between total household income (or proxy measures of income) and indicators of health.

    2) 2015 White Paper on Paid Leave and Health. Minnesota Department of Health, Center for Health Equity.

    This white paper highlights the links between socio-economic factors and health, and underscores how a lack of access to paid sick and family leave contributes to health disparities. Paid sick and family leave is an economic issue, but this paper indicates it is also a public health issue.

    Key points from the white paper include:
    With paid leave policies, people are healthier. People with paid leave use less sick time and health care and their children do better in school. Paid maternity leave contributes to better maternal mental and physical health, better prenatal and postnatal care, more breastfeeding, and greater parent/infant bonding. Elders cared for by family members with paid leave more often enjoy a higher quality of life.

    People with lower incomes, part-time workers, and single parents are least likely to have access to paid sick and family leave. These groups are disproportionately populations of color and American Indians. These disparities in access to paid leave have a cascading effect on families and communities, including children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

    This white paper clearly outlines the benefits of paid leave policies not only for individuals and families but also for employers. Employers offering paid sick and family leave enjoy economic benefits including improved recruitment, retention, and morale of employees. Conversely, a lack of employee access to paid leave results in costs for employers including lost labor time, costs related to the spread of illness and disease, and challenges in employee recruitment and retention.

  5. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 06/09/2015 - 08:02 pm.

    Does payroll become more difficult

    If a company has workers throughout the State with each municipality having a different minimum wage that the company must keep track of? Not that they can’t figure it out, but it seems logical that businesses would want a simple one size fits all policy for wages while they deal with 50 differing states and their own minimum wage laws.

  6. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/09/2015 - 09:04 pm.

    Apparently, only republicans understand

    that it’s not the role of government to tell private employers what they must give their employees in pay and benefits in an employment contract between two consenting parties any more than they can mandate to me what I must pay the kid who cuts my lawn.

    If city governments want to spend taxpayer money on generous pay and benefits for government employees, they only have to answer to the voters for their misguided policies. But when cities are run by entrenched political machines, that’s not likely to happen and everyone knows it. The only recourse for the disgruntled taxpayer is to leave, and many are.

    The 10th Amendment makes it clear that the Constitution recognizes the states as the only other valid level of government and the Dillon Rule says that the states get to decide what if any power is exercised by municipalities or whether or not they even exist.

    Fortunately we have people in the state legislature who understand that even if they are all from the same party.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/14/2015 - 11:09 pm.

      I amused by right-wingers who claim that

      corporate executives require multimillion dollar bonuses for motivation and reward, but that rank-and-file workers should be happy just to have a job, that they need to get used to stagnant wages so that they can compete with Third World countries, that it’s OK for workers to receive government benefits if it spares major corporations from having to pay a living wage, or that if people don’t earn enough, they should just go to school (on what money and with what hours?) and qualify for a better job, that companies will go broke if they have to pay more, and that .

      On the matter of competing with Third World countries, IT companies are already importing cheap programmers from overseas, so why not a foreign corporate executive for $75,000 a year?

      Are not food stamps and Medicaid for underpaid workers a form of corporate welfare?

      Let’s do a thought experiment. Suppose all the minimum wage workers went to school and earned degrees in areas like business, accounting, nursing, engineering, or other vocational fields. Two things would happen. One is that the wages of these professions would go down. The other is that we would still need people to do the dirty, dangerous, debilitating jobs that minimum wage workers currently do.

      As for companies not being able to absorb requirements for higher wages or benefits, companies all over the world manage to provide mandated benefits such as high minimum wages, paid vacations, family leave, and pensions. Are right-wingers saying that American companies are too stupid to figure out how to do this?

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/15/2015 - 01:01 pm.

        Your’re missing my point

        This isn’t about whether “American companies are too stupid” or what people making minimum wage “deserve” for whatever reason. This is about whether or not the government has the right to mandate what wage should be paid for labor that is agreed upon by a buyer and seller of that labor.

        I say no. If you can’t live on the wage you’re making, whether it’s $7 an hour or $250 an hour that’s something you as an individual must deal with. Whether that means living with room mates or in your parents’ basement or learning a new marketable skill that is worth more in the marketplace than what you’re selling now, that’s your responsibility as a free man or woman to solve. It’s not the role of Daddy government to dictate the vague and immeasurable concept of a “livable wage.”

        From what you’ve shared of your lifestyle, I’m sure you’ve lived a lot cheaper than I have which would make my “livable wage” requirements much higher than yours. Is it the government’s responsibility to intervene somehow to make my clients pay me more? I don’t think so.

        • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/16/2015 - 12:26 am.

          It’s a problem for society as a whole

          when people can’t afford to pay for housing and are homeless (yes, there are homeless people who are employed full time), have to rely on food stamps even though they’re working full time (taxpayers’ money, don’t you know?), can’t afford to get married or have children (and conservatives are all for people getting married and having children, aren’t they?), and can’t afford to buy houses, furniture, or other big ticket items (which depresses the economy).

          As far as wages being “agreed to” by both employer and employee, the employer holds all the cards. Employers can tell employees that they’re competing on “merit” (as a way to prevent them from finding out what their colleagues are making or from joining together in common cause instead of trying to undermine one another), they can force pay cuts, they can force benefit cuts, and they can replace their employees with cheaper H1Bs and force them to train their replacements as a condition for receiving severance pay (there have been two recent high-profile cases). This is not the same situation as a self-employed person and a client. I have actual haggling power that a corporate employee does not.

          If the largest employer in a community pays poorly, the other employers feel no need to pay better.

          Yale University, where I did my graduate work, is the largest employer in the city of New Haven, Connecticut, especially since such manufacturers as Winchester rifles and Gant shirts moved out. I don’t know what Yale’s pay scales are like now, but in the 1970s and 1980s, they were abysmal for clerical and other white collar employees, starting at minimum wage and moving up the scale by insignificant amounts, a couple of dollars here, a couple of dollars there. This system motivated other local employers to underpay their employees as well. Statements by then-president Kingman Lyman Brewster made him sound like a present-day right-winger: “If they don’t like their pay, they should get better jobs.” (So, Mr. Three Last Names, if all your clerical workers get better jobs, who is going to take care of all the paperwork and data entry that comes with running a university?)

          People exist. That sounds like a stupid statement, but many right-wingers forget it. They have to be maintained somehow, either with jobs that allow them to meet at least their basic expenses or with taxpayer funds, such as food stamps, Medicaid, Section 8, and yes, those expensive holding tanks known as prisons if they become so frustrated and angry with their lot that they start committing crimes.

          It’s true that there are plenty of Third World countries that practice the libertarian ideal of having people work for what they can get or just be reduced to begging or crime, but shouldn’t Americans, who still quaintly pride themselves on being “the greatest country in the world” strive to treat their fellow citizens better than Third World countries do?

          • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/16/2015 - 04:54 pm.

            Therein lies our difference

            You see this nation as a 300 million-person collective and I see this nation as 300 million free men and women who are responsible for and benefit from their own efforts, however great or little they may be.

  7. Submitted by John Appelen on 06/12/2015 - 04:30 pm.

    Bangladesh is $38 per month

    “unrealistic to expect American workers to compete on the basis of cost”

    I agree, that is why some jobs are a good fit for low cost countries and have gone there. To compete the USA needs creative smart people who can keep developing the new gizmos and services that everyone in the world wants. We also need a way to reduce the burden costs of doing business in the USA.

    So how do we keep the rule of law, good schools, clean water and air, care for the truly disabled, care for the elderly, etc, etc, etc while charging lower taxes?

    How do we get those that do not need it off the government dole? (ie be they poor, middle class, rich or union members) We need everyone helping to pull this wagon except those that absolutely need to be riding in it.

  8. Submitted by John Appelen on 06/12/2015 - 04:34 pm.

    On a lighter note

    By the way, pullers and riders can come from all classes.

  9. Submitted by Bill Willy on 06/15/2015 - 01:06 pm.

    Los Angeles didn’t listen to ALEC, why should MN?

    June 13th

    “Mayor Eric Garcetti signed into law on Saturday an ordinance that makes Los Angeles the biggest city in the nation to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

    “He called the law ‘a major victory for our city’ at a signing ceremony in south Los Angeles, and said the wage increases will enable working families to lift themselves out of poverty.”

    Population of Los Angeles (city): 3,884,307

    Population of Minnesota: 5,457,173

    Businesses in Minnesota: 525,000

    Employees in Minnesota: 2,500,000

    Yet Republican legislators are working hard on the “Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act” (AND getting paid $31,000/year by MN taxpayers to do it, AND they get a per diem that nearly doubles that amount).

    “Living Wage Preemption.” Those three words pretty much sum up contemporary Republican values and put a spotlight on lie they tell “hard working Minnesota families” when they say they’re working hard for them (while doing all they can to make sure there will be no such thing as a living wage in Minnesota).

  10. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 06/15/2015 - 05:44 pm.

    Here is an interesting article from the Seattle Times, written 5 years ago.

    What the author does not say is, taxation in South Carolina is less than 1/2 of Germany.

    Workers here take more of their paychecks home, so they don’t have to be inflated for taxes to make them “living wages”.

    We are gathering high paying manufacturing jobs that start at $15 and top out around $26 per hour. These jobs include generous benefit packages as well.

    So, if BMW is willing to start workers at $15 an hour, what’s the big deal, right?

    The deal is, they are paying good money for good people. No one is forcing them. It’s called the Free Market for a reason.

    It’s the reason Boeing built a new manufacturing facility here instead of Seattle. It’s the reason Volvo never considered Minnesota before settling a new plant here this year.

    I fully expect that like 3M in Minnesota, Washington state has seen its last Boeing plant.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 06/15/2015 - 08:11 pm.

      Good money for good people

      The funny thing is, I agree with at least one of the basic things you’re saying:

      “The deal is, they are paying good money for good people. No one is forcing them.”

      The problem is, most places, most companies don’t see or do things that way. Most companies, or business owners, seem to have that “old world view” that makes them think the smartest employee-related thing they can do is pay them as little as they can get away with.

      I’m sure you’ve seen that a thousand times. Some companies, like BMW, Boeing, Southwest Airlines (and too few others) “buy into” the idea that “if you treat your employees right and well as you can it’s much better for the bottom line because they’re happier, healthier, more productive,” etc., and somehow that gets passed through to the most important link in the chain; the customer.

      But way too many business owners or execs think that kind of stuff is just plain crazy. “Why would I pay 300 people $15.00 when I can get ’em for $11.00?”

      Higher or lower taxes have something to do with it, no doubt. But from what I’ve seen I wouldn’t trust the majority of businesses most places to “share” any of whatever tax savings they’d realize because most of them simply haven’t shared any more of their productivity gains or profits than they an get away with for the past how many years?

      But I don’t disagree with your general points. It’s just that it’s going to be a while before most businesses start saying (and meaning) things like, “Hey… If you’ll give us $X in tax relief we’ll pass X% of that on to our employees in pay increases and benefits.”

      Instead they’re sending out the very public message that one of their top priorities is “living wage preemption” which says anything BUT “We want our employees to be comfortable in their financial lives, healthy and happy as we can help them be,” no matter what, or how much sense, the rationale behind “preemption” may or may not make. It kind of sends a message more along those “same old lines” of “You’re lucky we’re even offering you a job so you should be happy and productive with whatever we decide to give you. Get comfortable, healthy and happy on your OWN time. We’ve got businesses to run.”

      That may or may not be how they actually think or feel about it, but that’s the message “employees” (in general) get when they turn to people like the Chamber lobbying hacks and Pat Garofalo to deliver it for them.

      Question is, when people are working hard but struggling (all over the place), and businesses are making lots of money but not taking that “more enlightened approach” yet (because they haven’t seen the light), what are you gonna do in the meantime?

      That’s when government gets pressed to step in and say, “Okay. If you’re not going to give it to these people of your own free will, we’re going to have to MAKE you do it because we’re tired of your employees applying for food stamps and then having you on our necks to lower your taxes to boot.”

      Anyway. I don’t disagree with you about what those companies are doing and how all that could work IF the dirty rotten stinkin’ you know whats would just loosen their iron grip on their wallets and spread a little of it around among the people that’re helping them make it.

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 06/16/2015 - 10:47 am.

        “Why would I pay 300 people $15.00 when I can get ’em for $11.00?”

        That works for burger flipping. Not so much for world class manufacturers.

        And that is the whole point. McD’s can, and do hire high school kids with no experience to flip their burgers and salt their fries because it takes no skill to do it. So if you’re an adult out there competing with high school kids for jobs, who’s fault is that?

        And do we really want people getting comfortable with McJobs?

        I’ve made a very comfortable living automating McJobs. In the cases where I’ve had worried employees approach me to ask if that new machine might be the end of their job, I always say “I certainly hope so, and so should you.” I always clarify that with the hope that they will take the opportunity to learn a skill, go to school. Some do, some don’t, but that’s how freedom is supposed to work.

        In some cases, for motivated employees the company saw value in keeping, the automation itself provided a step in the right direction in that they would need to learn new skills to operate it.

        Mandating a minimum wage someone can eek a living out of does no favors to anyone, in my experience. It stifles motivation.

      • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/16/2015 - 10:56 am.

        More importantly, among the people who perform

        the work of the entity, whether it is manufacturing cars, flying airplanes, cooking and serving meals, or teaching classes. The pooh-bahs at the top need to get over themselves and their boasts of “You wouldn’t have a job except for me.” Rather, they should consider that they wouldn’t have a successful company without all the “little people” to do all the work that they themselves can’t or won’t do.

        If the typical CEO, or maybe even the top couple of layers of executives, were suddenly beamed up into an alien spaceship, most companies would function just fine. But top executives whose rank-and-file workers suddenly vanished would be as helpless as the post-Civil War plantation owners who had no one to harvest their cotton, tend their livestock, cook their meals, or clean their houses after their slaves left.

  11. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 06/16/2015 - 11:47 am.

    “If the typical CEO, or maybe even the top couple of layers of executives, were suddenly beamed up into an alien spaceship, most companies would function just fine.”

    What an absurd statement. If that was true, why doesn’t Target get rid of it’s top executive staff? CEO’s of publicly traded companies don’t own the business, the stock holders do. Why wouldn’t they trim millions right off the top?

    No one is suggesting companies cannot run without the rank and file staff. The point is, in some markets the product takes little, or no skill to produce. They need employees, but they can afford to literally take them in off the street; there is no investment lost in replacing unmotivated or unproductive workers.

    In my experience, people that spend their time worrying about what other people are doing, or getting, instead of what they are supposed to be doing do not progress.

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