Minnesota House of Representatives


State Representative JoAnn Ward

231 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

For more information contact: Matt Roznowski 651-296-8875

Posted: Apr 11 2014 11:31AM
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Rep. Ward Votes for Minimum Wage Increase, Women's Economic Security Act

ST. PAUL, MN – This week the Minnesota House approved legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 per hour by 2016 and give minimum wage workers an annual pay raise tied to the rate of inflation starting in January 2018.

Governor Dayton intends to sign the bill into law on Monday, April 14.

State Representative JoAnn Ward (DFL – Woodbury) said the bill will lift thousands of Minnesotans out of poverty.

“We have the third lowest minimum wage in the country and it has not increased in nearly a decade despite the rising cost of necessities like gas, groceries and clothing,” said Ward. “If you work hard 40 hours a week you should not have to live in poverty. Increasing the minimum wage will make a positive difference in the lives of women, men and children in our state. And we phase the increase in over several years, which in my mind is a reasonable approach that helps address the legitimate concerns of some business owners.”

Over 357,000 workers will see a raise when the bill is fully implemented. Of those workers, 45 percent have some college education and 57 percent, or 200,000 individuals, are women.

The bill is expected to have significant impact on Minnesota families. Of the workers expected to receive a raise, 62,850 are parents. And 14,200 of those are the sole wage earner in their household.

Details of the bill’s minimum wage increases include:

  • $8.00 per hour in August 2014, $9.00 per hour in August 2015, and $9.50 per hour for large employers (businesses with gross sales over $500,000) in 2016.
  • $6.50 per hour in August 2014, $7.25 per hour in August 2015, and $7.75 per hour for smaller employers (businesses with gross sales under $500,000) in 2016.
  • The $7.75 minimum wage rate would also apply for large businesses in the following circumstances: 90 day training wage for 18 and 19 year olds, all 16 and 17 year olds and employees working under a J1 visa.
  • Beginning in 2018, the minimum wage would increase annually on January 1st by inflation measured by the implicit price deflator capped at 2.5 percent.
  • The annual increase could be suspended for one year by the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) if leading economic indicators indicate the possibility of a substantial downturn in the economy. The suspension could only be implemented after a public hearing and public comment period. In better economic times, the suspended inflationary increase or a lesser amount could be added back into the minimum wage rate in a subsequent year.

The minimum wage increase goes hand-in-hand with a bill approved with strong bipartisan support on Wednesday, April 9 called the Women’s Economic Security Act (passed by a vote of 106-24), legislation that will help close the gender pay gap so women can earn equal pay for equal work, provide more protections and flexibility for pregnant mothers in the workplace and create more opportunities for women to enter high-wage, high-demand professions.

“I was incredibly proud to support the bill,” said Ward. “Women are increasingly becoming the primary breadwinners of their families, so this bill is really about strengthening families. I think strong families are a key ingredient to growing our economy from the middle-out.”

Debra Fitzpatrick, Director of the Center on Women and Public Policy at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, says the gender pay gap has been stalled at 20 percent for the past decade, robbing each Minnesota woman and her family of almost a half a million dollars during their career.

“That isn't going to change without a comprehensive, research-based approach like the Women's Economic Security Act," said Fitzpatrick. 

Other components of the Act would:

Allow mothers to stay in the workforce by expanding family leave and providing reasonable accommodations for pregnant and nursing employees

  • HF 2371: Expands unpaid leave under the Minnesota Parental Leave Act from 6 to 12 weeks and allows use of leave under the Parental Leave Act for pregnancy-related needs. It also requires employers with more than 21 employees to provide reasonable minor accommodations (seating, limits to heavy lifting) for pregnant workers.
  • HF 2259: Provides enforcement of workplace protections for nursing mothers to express breast milk during unpaid break times.

Expand access to high-quality, affordable childcare

  • Removes the $5,000 cap on early learning scholarships.

Decrease the gender pay gap through the participation of women in high-wage, high-demand nontraditional work

  • HF 2291: Expands support for employers; workforce organizations; and others to recruit, prepare, place and retain women in nontraditional occupations and apprenticeships, especially low income and older women.
  • HF 2243: Supports the development of high economic impact women-owned businesses in nontraditional industries.

Reduce the gender pay gap through increased enforcement of equal pay laws for state contractors and by allowing employees to discuss pay inequities

  • HF 2373: Requires businesses with more than 50 employees seeking state contracts over $500,000 to ensure compliance with existing equal pay laws. Businesses must state that average compensation for female employees is not consistently below average compensation for male employees within similar major job categories.
  • HF 2274: Allows employees to voluntarily discuss their compensation without fear of retaliation from their employers.

Decrease the gender pay gap by providing equal employment opportunities for family caregivers and reducing the “motherhood penalty”

  • HF 2300: Requires equal employment treatment regardless of “family caregiver status” or “familial status.”
  • HF 2461: Allows grandparents to use existing earned sick leave to care for an ill or injured grandchild.

Address economic consequences of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault

  • HF 2366: Expands unemployment insurance eligibility currently available to victims of domestic violence to include victims of stalking and sexual assault.
  • HF 2461: Allows employees to use existing earned sick leave to deal with sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking.

Enhance retirement security by considering a state retirement savings plan for those without an employer-provided option

  • HF 2419: Requires a report from Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) on the potential for a state-administered plan for workers without access to workplace retirement savings plans; along with other alternative private sector options.

Rep. Ward encourages her constituents to contact her with any questions about the minimum wage increase or the Women’s Economic Security Act. She can be reached by phone at (651) 296-7807, by email at rep.joann.ward@house.mn, or by postal mail at 531 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.

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