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MN2020 - Tuesday Talk: What’s a fair minimum wage?
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Tuesday Talk: What’s a fair minimum wage?

January 15, 2013 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

Had minimum wage kept pace with inflation it would $10 an hour today. Instead, Minnesota’s rate is at the federally set $7.25, with some workers paid even less under state wage exemptions. A State Senate bill would raise minimum wage to $7.50 and peg future increases to inflation. A State House proposal calls for a jump to $9.38. That would move Minnesota from near the bottom to a national leader, above Washington State’s $9.19 an hour. What do you think? 

What’s a fair minimum wage? 

Thanks for participating! Commenting on this conversation is now closed.


  • Norm Hanson says:

    January 15, 2013 at 9:07 am

    What is a fair minimum wage?  That is a difficult question because whatever it is set at it many folks will think that it is still too low…and many service businesses will think that it is too high, no matter where it is set at.  It has been claimed that WalMart has set wages so low in many parts of the United States that many of its employees are eligible for food stamps and other governmental assistance including medical assistance, that is, setting the wages so low that employees must depend upon the taxpayers to cover their benefits. That would seem to be an example of an unfairly low minimum wage, especially, if the employer is the primary game in town.

  • Herbert Davis says:

    January 15, 2013 at 9:27 am

    If $10 is what it would be if it kept up with inflation….the people who are doing the poop work deserve $10!...and it should be tied to inflation….it might raise our prices so the poor can live,,,,SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  • Gene Wright says:

    January 15, 2013 at 9:30 am

    A fair minimum wage is supposed to be a level established by the free market, not a government organization. Anytime, the government ordains a certain level where the minimum should be, it is raising the cost of living for everyone! Practically all of the jobs that pay minimum wage are part time, entry level jobs that should be a starting point for advancement or a temporary position until better opportunities are available. If people are mired in a lifetime of minimum wage job(s), it is the education system and personal desire to achieve that has failed! Raising the minimum wage will do nothing to create long term jobs that will provide a living! Increasing the minimum wage will only create less jobs and a higher cost to the public!

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    January 15, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt, January 1944:

    “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.  ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’  People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

    “In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident.  We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are:

    “The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

    “The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

    “The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

    “The right of every family to a decent home;

    “The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

    “The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

    “The right to a good education;

    “All these rights spell security.  And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well being.”

    In short, we should assure economic security for all, and if the private sector is unable to employ all who need jobs, government must step in. Government should conduct an annual review of salaries and set and enforce new minimum wages as often as necessary. 

    Inequality in America today is as bad as it was in Roosevelt’s time.  It is time for both the federal and state governments to step up and fix it.


  • Kris Jacobs says:

    January 15, 2013 at 11:03 am

    There is a large body of research that confirms that minimum wage increases now have very little or no measurable impact on employment.  This is contrary to what Sen. Julianne Ortman on Friday called “proven economic theory” because minimum wage workers spend their increase thus immediately benefit local economies.  If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, which lawmakers used to raise regularly in a bipartisan fashion, it would now be above $10.50 an hour.  Employers have succeeded in politicizing the issue thus delivering a big subsidy to business in the form of an artificially low minimum wage.  There is no substitute for courageous political leadership when worker bargaining power has been devastated by union busting and government sanctioned, unfairly low wages that insult the best workforce in the nation.

  • ChristeenStone says:

    January 15, 2013 at 11:17 am

    I agree that $10 dollars and geared to inflation is a bare minimum of the way to go. As I consider the high cost of housing,clothing, food and all the other necessities of life it is mind boggling.
    So those of us with compassion advocate for government help for those less fortunate and we hear that it is not the Governments job to do those things. We elect Legislative Bodies to run our country in a fair and just manner, they are our representatives in the process so we are the Government according to our Constitution. I have never voted for a person who I felt didn’t have the same compassion I do for those in need.

    I can relate to the Walmart policy, I saw it in action in Arkansas where they and Tyson were the main available jobs.
    Their theory was pay very little and let Government supply the Food stamps and Health Care, so who is the Government??
    Those of us who pay the taxes and elect others to represent us?? That is the way I view this problem. The Bible tells me “the workman is worthy of his hire” so why should We pay for those Companies to pocket the wealth???

  • Dennis Litfin says:

    January 15, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Federal Poverty Income Guidelines are as follows:

    Family of 4:  $11.08/hr…..$23,050/yr

    Family of 2:  $7.27/hr…...$15,130/yr

    Would any of the responders like to switch places with either of the above?

  • Ginny says:

    January 15, 2013 at 11:44 am

    A fair minimum wage is one that allows a family to pay the bills without working 2 or 3 jobs. It is enough for shelter, food, and medical needs. Income inequality has grown over the last 30 years or more driven by the inequality of labor income, of capital income, and an increasing share of income going to capital income rather than labor income. (that’s from an other website on economics).
    This ones’s especially for you, Mr. Free Market sets the wages: The free market for the last 30 years or so has meant that the top 1 percent of households have gained in 59.9 % of the gains from 1979–2007, while the top 0.1 percent seized an even more dispropor-
    tionate share: 36%. In comparison, only 8.6 percent of income gains have gone to the bottom 90 percent” (
    2011), although productivity has been rising and businesses, corporations, and owners are wealthier than they have ever been before.
    If workers’ wages had kept up with productivity and had been shared more fairly with the bosses, we’d see workers in a much better position.
    Those employers who say they can’t find qualified workers? From what I’ve read, they are offering salaries that are far too low and workers know they can’t live on them.

  • Peter Rachleff says:

    January 15, 2013 at 11:55 am

    It is time to make the minimum wage a liveable wage.  The Twin Cities Jobs Now Coalition does an excellent job crunching numbers to ascertain a living wage for different regions of the state.  It is well over $10 an hour.  That’s where we should begin.

  • Catherine Bach says:

    January 15, 2013 at 11:59 am

    I agree with Mr. Davis.  I think $10 is fair.  People can’t live on $7.50 an hour and pay for housing,utilities, food, meds,etc.esprcially if they have children.  If you don’t believe it, try it.

  • Ginny says:

    January 15, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Seeing Peter Rachleff’s comment reminds me, too, that we need to see labor unions strengthen and grow. They used to help protect the workers, but now the business community is making war on them—because they were so effective.
    Raising their wages raises all wages. Everyone ends up a little more prosperous—that’s the main result—not a higher cost of living for everyone.
    Excerpting ting from Tim Noah (author of the Great Divergence”—read it),  today unions represent 12% of the work force. “Draw one line on a graph charting the decline in union membership, then superimpose a second line charting the decline in middle-class income share,” writes Noah, “and you will find that the two lines are nearly identical.”
    I belong to the National Writers’ Union mainly because I want to support the union movement. NWU is a different kind of union but it still provides some benefits.

  • Mary says:

    January 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    As much as I’d love for this to work, it never does.  Any time employers are forced to increase the cost of their payroll, they also take that opportunity to pass that cost onto the consumer.  Since so many consumers are the people getting the minimum wage, and so many of those items are essential, there is no benefit whatsoever.  The only way for a minimum wage increase to ever benefit anyone would be if they quit increasing their charge for products or services and they take a smaller cut of the profit for themselves as shareholders and business owners.  It is a ridiculous point.  People living on minimum wage will have to settle for extremely inexpensive housing options, or live with other minimum wage earners in order to live with a different quality of monetary life.  It’s a vicious cycle that will never end in a society like ours.  Business owners who pay well and keep the cost of their products down rarely exist.  These wage earners also can’t afford health coverage and many times are not offered it by employers doing anything they can to keep from having to offer it.  We live in a pathetic system of greed.  Since there will always be minimum wage workers, we will be dealing with this situation and the rest will continue to blame them for being a drain on society as a whole.  Although, without them we can’t function as a society.

  • Joan B. says:

    January 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    I work at a major retailer and I started last year at $7.45 an hour.  After a whole year, I got a raise to $7.67 an hour.  I work part-time.  Only the supervisors and team leads work full-time.  Every January, the hours plummet after the holidays.  It takes a month for my food benefit to increase from $16 a month to whatever, so January is extremely hard.  I depend on Minnesota Care, but since my hours plummeted, I am probably eligible for MA.  The worst part is that the money I made in December went to pay for AAA because my tire blew and shredded and I was stuck on Hwy 55.  The rim was bent.  After the $70 basic AAA membership, the next check went to buy a used rim at very close to $50.  After that, I had to get a tire before I was ready because the spare I was riding on blew on Hwy 35 and I was stranded again.  I can’t afford a cell phone, so I drove about 3 mph on the shoulder until I reached a ramp with a gas station right there.  Thank God I did have AAA!  But because of these emergencies, I can’t buy groceries, gas, personal needs.  I live in public housing, and just make the rent and the $50 a month for a storage locker to store the stuff I kept after I lost my house in 2011 because I was unemployed all year and so I was able to move up here.  Needless to say, RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE To $10 AN HOUR!!!!!

  • Mary says:

    January 15, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    I know no one wants it but the Danish system of keeping those working for minimum wage living a sustainable, decent quality of life is to make sure they have housing, food, medical care and equal education.  Since that won’t happen, we’ll continue to have the extremely hard working poor stay poor.  We need to reward hard work with healthcare and it will pay for itself.  Now there is an unpopular position.  I’m sure I’ll really take a hit for that.  I hope you can get what you need and not end up frozen on the road again and with food on your table and medical care when you need it.  I was you a year ago and saved my home at great financial cost and we are all just a severe illness or accident or job loss away from where you are.  Too bad people are in denial about that unless it happens to them.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    January 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Joan, your story could have been one of those Barbara Ehrenreich wrote about in “Nickel and Dimed,” her account of working for a year or so in a series of low-wage/benefit-free jobs.  WalMart was one of her employers and a house-cleaning service was another. She and her co-workers had to live in dumpy apartments or very cheap hotels.  Each day was a struggle to find enough money for gas and food.  Dinner out ever? No. A movie? No.  A continuous grind? Yes.

    I can’t find the article again, but this morning I read that, to live decently in the U.S., a typical worker should earn not $10 but $21 per hour.  I have no doubt that is true. 

    Unless they are forced to by government, most corporations will not willingly pay their employees a living wage instead of treating their executives to outlandishly high salaries and perks and their shareholders to what is left. Maybe Minnesota should set the example by increasing the minimum wage to that $21.

  • Mary says:

    January 15, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    So true.  They would run as fast as they could to the next state to do business where they don’t have to pay any wage near that, etc.  Blackmail is how those businesses stay here.  Big tax breaks so the businesses will be here to pay those huge minimum wage paychecks.  I know so many who feel so lucky about that.  But the wheels keep getting greased so the train just keeps moving by those at the bottom.  Ugh.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    January 15, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    In “The Unconquerable World” Jonathan Schell traced the history of revolutions.  People at various times and in various countries accepted governmental oppression as long as they could.  When they could stand it no longer, they got rid of their governments—peacefully if possible but violently if that were the only way to achieve change. 

    There are those who think we are approaching some kind of point at which revolution will be necessary in America in order to get rid of corporate rule (a form of fascism) and restore democratic equality and economic opportunity—preferably peacefully through our existing democratic institutions.

    A little bit away from the idea of a living wage, but perhaps not so far as to be impossible.

  • Ginny says:

    January 15, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    I have read that FDR probably avoided a revolution by putting New Deal programs in place. I think we are headed for some sort of crash, huge change, or revolution. For one thing, this economy can’t be sustained if the “consumers” can’t earn a living wage adequate to buy the stuff that apparently is the main wheel of our economy. Nor can we keep making and buying stuff, because we are running out of resources—not to mention clean air (have you seen the pictures from China?) and water and soil.
    Couple that with other efforts from conservatives to keep Americans ignorant and educated just enough to hold a job by cutting education and to privatize education and to keep many young people from going to colleges and universities because of the cost, and you can see the disaster unfolding.
    I’m looking for an “Occupy” movement that will really take hold and be joined by millions of us—not just the young and poor—and will get the attention of our “leaders.” To get their attention, we have to find something that will cost them.

  • Joan Tangen says:

    January 15, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    I think the minimum wage should be $10 an hour and indexed to keep pace with the cost of living.

  • Joan B. says:

    January 15, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Thank you for these true comments, Mary…

  • Joan B. says:

    January 15, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    Thank you so much for your comments, Bernice…

  • Joan B. says:

    January 15, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    It’s all interconnected….some call it plutocracy, some meritocracy….but the insensitive creatures that are the big corporations should have to experience what we go through….

  • William Pappas says:

    January 15, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Of the new wealth created in the last year 99% of it went to the richest 1%.  Figure that one out.  Raising the minimum wage to 10.00 dollars an hour seems like small potatoes after that.  Yes, small businesses will feel the pinch but their should be tax relief for them in return.  Raising the minimum wage is in reality a major stimulus that benefits local business most of all.  That 3 bucks extra is completely spent on food, insurance, transportation, housing, clothing, etc, all locally.  The way for this economy to improve is to lift the fortunes of those at the bottom and the middle class.  The current tax structure must also be changed to allow a progressive shift in wealth accumulation away from the huber rich.  Unless that is done, Bernice is correct in that the capitalist system will devour itself by destroying the middle class and creating a type of feudal system of indebtedness to the banks.

  • Tadd says:

    January 15, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Why don’t they just make minimum wage $100/hr? And anyone who gets laid off or fired automatically gets $1,000,000 severance pay? You think employers can just afford to pay whatever they want to? Have you ever had to make a payroll? Do you know how many people would lose their jobs, how many small or medium size businesses would go out of business? How many people’s jobs would be shipped overseas or be replaced by machines?

  • Retha Dooley says:

    January 16, 2013 at 9:19 am

    A “fair minimum wage” is one that affords a person meeting basic needs as stated in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, sec 1:

    Article 25.

    (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

    I have long wondered what it is about the “job creators” that allows them to misunderstand their role in life. “Job creators” need workers, and workers need jobs.  Nowhere in that equation is there room for “slave labor”.

    If you are working full-time and still can’t afford a standard of living as stated in Article 25 there is something very wrong going on.

  • Herbert Davis says:

    January 16, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I think that amount is more unrealistic than anything anyone has ever said. Congrats! There have been way too many rational comments and there probably is a need for right wing humor. Thanks.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    January 16, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Thanks for your comment, Retha.

    Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sounds as though it was written by Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped establish the United Nations.

    She probably wrote FDR’s 1944 address as well, since Article 25 is almost word for word the same as his Second Bill of Rights (an “economic bill of rights).

  • Ginny says:

    January 16, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Tadd: Do you think employers should be able to pay anything they want and in addition not pay any benefits or provide a safe working place or rules that prevent abuse of any kind? And force employees to work as many hours as they want them to?
    You think they are going to give their workers a fair deal without some sort of legal prodding? Hasn’t ever happened except in a few rare, isolated instances. That’s what we had in the old days, before unions and now we’re getting back to some of it today.
    This in a world where companies are making huge, unprecedented profits and are getting great tax deals, even if they send jobs overseas?
    Another 18th century program.

  • Carol says:

    January 16, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    The minimum wage in Australia is $15 plus—in some places in the country, $20 per hour.  Our friends were horrified when I told them our minimum wage structure in the U.S.  Also, Walmart must accept union workers in nearly every country EXCEPT the U.S.  Where are our legislators?  And where is the outrage from our people in this country.  We need action NOW!!

  • Ginny says:

    January 16, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    The first thing we do is get rid of all the legislators determined to put us back into the late 1800s and early 1900s. The teapartiers and their cohorts need to be voted out of office.
    Other developed countries around the world are looking at us aghast: no health care, no minimum wage, education that is going down down down. All leading to more and more poverty.
    The rich will get theirs, but I hope it’s in time.

  • Rebecca Scott says:

    January 17, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    I think $10.00 per hour sounds very reasonable. This is in line with the rising inflation levels.

  • Ginny says:

    January 17, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Can you live on that salary? I couldn’t and I am retired and careful with my money. Let’s be really “reasonable.”