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Bill would raise the minimum wage

Published (2/22/2008)
By Craig Green
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For some, the minimum wage is a matter of dollars and cents. Adequate pay given for work done. For others, it’s a matter of justice.

Approved Feb. 14 by the House Commerce and Labor Committee, HF456/SF875*, sponsored by Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) and Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL-St. Paul), would raise the state minimum wage above the federal standard, currently at $5.85 an hour. Already passed by the Senate, it now goes to the House floor.

The bill would raise the minimum wage for large employers (companies with annual sales of $625,000 or more) to $6.90 as of July 24, 2008, and to $7.90 one year later. For small employers (companies with annual sales less than $625,000), the minimum wage would be $5.75 and $6.75 respectively.

The bill would also eliminate the “training wage” which allows employers to pay a lower minimum wage – $4.90 an hour – to employees under 20 years of age.

Speaking in favor of the bill, Archbishop Harry Flynn of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said, “We have a long standing belief in the dignity of the worker, and we need to continue this tradition by increasing the minimum wage in a way that demonstrates the value we put not only on our work, but on our workers. This is a matter of justice, not charity.”

Dave Dederichs, manager of fiscal and labor/management policy at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, said the state should conform to the federal minimum wage which is scheduled to go up 70 cents in July and will be $7.25 by July 2009. He also said the bill is flawed because it ties an inflationary index to the minimum wage.

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