Given the packed agenda of this meeting, recap of last week’s meeting was brief. Comments shared showed a concern for enforcement, franchises, and the effectiveness of last week’s panel discussion.
Following last week’s meeting debrief, Snowden Stieber presented an overview of exemptions. This overview gave an analysis of the types of exemption: category, size, age, and time. Stieber broke them down further into employer-based and employee-based exemptions. He also provided a comparison of exemptions on the State level and in Minneapolis. To see Stieber’s full report click here.
This week’s panel was comprised of a disability advocacy consultant at Akcess Associates, the chair of government relations practice at Fredrikson & Byron P.A, the LEAP director at Project for Pride Living, and the Executive Director of Cookie Cart. The agenda for this panel was to give insight on disabled workers and youth workers.
Kevin Goodno spoke on behalf of the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation, an organization that has not taken a position on the issue but that has members both in favor and opposed to an increase to $15. He gave an overview of DT&H (day training and habilitation services). Services are provided in a variety of cities, and the amount of time spent in Saint Paul can vary. These services refer to those provided by direct care workers who are paid to work with people with disabilities. Disabled citizens who consume these services, are not paid. Between 95-100% of revenue in this field comes from medical assistance. Given the complexity of DT&H work and everything that it entails, an increase in the minimum wage certainly would bring with it some complications – particularly because medical assistance revenue levels are capped and outside of the control of city ordinances.
Rick Cardenas, the panelist speaking on behalf of disabled workers and those who assist them, explained how the disabled typically are hired, but there was some confusion amongst committee members. With complexities such as workers interacting in multiple cities and reimbursement for those supporting disabled workers, it was challenging to capture a clear picture of what is currently being done. However, the desire to have higher reimbursement rates and full employment with benefits (as opposed to contract work) was made clear.
Matt Halley, also a committee member, gave an overview of the Cookie Cart business model, which essentially pays youth to work and learn simultaneously - an earn-to-learn model. Currently in Saint Paul, Cookie Cart hires approximately 100 teenagers to work 4-5 hours a week each, and pays them above the current minimum wage in addition to paying their taxes and social security. While Cookie Cart is not at all opposed to the idea of paying $15, the concern is that every dollar that wages increase will translate to approximately $15,000 in expenses.
Kristy Snyder, the final panelist, expressed her opinion that a $15 wage is an issue of equity. She explained that the despite the development and training that nonprofits provide, young people will choose jobs that pay more. Therefore, in order to keep youth motivated to stay with training programs, nonprofits like Cookie Cart have to offer competitive wages.
Kristy serves on a committee for Step-Up (the Minneapolis equivalent to Right Track), and says that they plan on getting to $15. That said, she also acknowledged that the number of participants likely will have to decrease due to the increased cost, and the program will have to be more intentional about targeting those most in need or at risk. She feels like this is an investment that that should be made, for the benefit of the City in the long run.
In committee discussion, it was clear that everyone understood why $15 is important and would be valuable in youth training, but no one could an answer as to how this will be done without cutting programs or getting money from other organizations or the government. The primary problem with looking to the government is that they will be facing their own expenses with an increase in minimum wage, and citizens ultimately will bear that cost through taxes.
The committee expressed a desire for more conversations/recommendations on potential exemptions. However, there is a concern that there is too much of a focus on “What are the exemptions?” rather than “What are the solutions?”
Next week, the panel will be hearing from Minnesota Private Colleges on the impact of $15 to college students who get paid for work as part of financial aid packages.
The committee, and the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, want to pause and send sincere condolences to the family and friends of Doug Hennes, University of St. Thomas. Doug was a member of this study committee, a former SPACC board member, and always deeply invested in the community. He will be greatly missed.