This week’s meeting started with the introduction of Dr. Eric LaMott, Provost and Chief Operating Officer of Concordia University, Saint Paul. Eric joins the committee on behalf of Minnesota Private Colleges, in place of the late Doug Hennes.
Eric introduced himself and shared the perspective of Minnesota Private Colleges: overall, they are not opposed to $15 minimum wage. Only student workers earn below $15/hour currently. He did express concern that raising $15 for those students would come with some possible tradeoffs: reducing the amount of hours students work, reducing the amount of students who are permitted to work on campus, or possibly increasing tuition. Ultimately, the current model for student workers would need to be reformed in order to accommodate this increase in wages.
Looking back at last week’s meeting, it was notably the highest rated meeting amongst committee members. The committee felt that it prepared them well to begin the recommendation process, which began this meeting.
Thomas Durfee’s research update spoke to the purchasing power of minimum wage and unemployment. The data he presented showed value of minimum wage over time, i.e. the value of minimum wage with respect to inflation and cost of living. Next, Durfee gave an overview on the labor force and unemployment in Saint Paul over time. With this information, he was able to present who is filing for unemployment in Saint Paul, and give an idea of where the vacancies lie within industry sectors. Click here for this week’s research update from Thomas Durfee.
Next, Snowden Stieber presented on minimum wage enforcement strategies. This overview confirmed how challenging establishment of an enforcement agency will be. Things to consider include the need for training and education, the wage worker to enforcement agent ratio, as well as funding – for fines alone generated in agencies currently in operation across the country do not generate enough revenue to support them. Committee members discussed the importance of education and outreach in any enforcement strategy. Click here to check out Snowden’s update.
In preparation for the development of recommendations, the committee looked back to a survey filled out at the beginning of the panel process. The answers, provided by the panelists themselves, identified priorities each of them brought into this work. Of the answers shared, general themes included equity, opportunities for the low-wage worker, as well as protection for the employer base so important to our economy.
One committee member voiced a concern often mentioned throughout this work: that, whatever route is taken, there will be negative consequences for some people. Also, keeping in mind that the bigger problem of poverty itself requires multiple solutions - it is impossible for minimum wage to be the only answer.
As the meeting progressed, committee members began discussing the Minneapolis ordinance as a place to start. As a group, they shared likes and dislikes, issues they would consider replicating or improving. Sometimes the same aspect of the Minneapolis ordinance was supported by some panelists while strongly opposed by others. Some panelists appreciate its simplicity, its use of ‘headcount’ in considering firm sizes, the phase-in time, exemptions for disabled workers, indexing, the youth wage, and the training period.
The dislikes were much more specific, sometimes diametrically opposed to what others liked about the ordinance, and a little more challenging to categorize. But amongst these dislikes were the “great number” of exemptions, its failure to address tip credit, the definition of firm size not aligning with the state’s definition, a slowly moving phase-in time, failure to consider adjustments for small businesses, multiple wage adjustments in one fiscal year, failure to address federal contracts, underestimation of enforcement needs and unintended consequences of the negative impact to employers.
Moving forward, panelists are feeling the pressure of only 2 meetings left. They will be drafting recommendation ideas to discuss and spending a great deal of time in discussion of options.