Co-chair B Kyle opened the meeting with a question to the committee members: what are their employees’ and networks’ thoughts on increasing minimum wage to $15? Particularly to those who currently make around $15/hour, how would they feel if the other employees’ wages increased to $15? One restaurant owner has been preparing for this increase and deliberately increased his dishwashers, line cooks, and chefs to $15 or more depending on their line of work. No employees have expressed any concern about other employee’s increased wage and were satisfied with their increase. He owns two locations - one in Minneapolis and the second in Saint Paul, totaling 48 full time and part time staff.
Thomas Durfee updated the Committee with his current research analysis on “firm birth” rates (when a business is founded) and “firm death” rates (when a business closes) in the City of Saint Paul. A few problems that Thomas identified were: no data on firm loss; and unemployment data does not provide reasoning WHY a person is unemployed. Thomas will report his findings at next week’s meeting.
The Committee heard a presentation from Jeff Schneider, Strategic Management Team, from the City of Minneapolis on the Staff Report on a Minimum Wage Policy. Jeff first acknowledged to the Committee there are many research studies on the effects of increased minimum wage projections, but not a whole lot on increased minimum wage post-implementation. Where many cities use revenue thresholds to determine exemptions and roll-out timelines, Minneapolis is unique in that they use a head count to determine appropriate roll-out timeline.
The second speaker to the Committee was Brian Walsh, Supervisor of Labor Standards Enforcement Division, Department of Civil Rights, City of Minneapolis. Brian shared his struggles working on the issues of minimum wage, “How do you mitigate the short term pain [for small employers]? There is no answer” and added that “There has to be investments [into partnership communities] in these policies after they pass.” Brian spoke about the value of being proactive to minimum wage issues - such as city working with community led partnerships and how “community policing” of minimum wage compliance should be a community-led enforcement effort.
The Committee asked Jeff and Brian many questions addressing issues including head count exemption, revenue privacy, the department’s budget, wage theft data, and preemptive approach. Brian referred back to Jeff’s comment on Seattle’s approach to minimum wage and how they created a robust Office of Labor Standards that budgeted to work with partnership communities – “Seattle is the gold standard” and is 2-3 years ahead of the minimum wage issue, being the first in the nation to reach out to diverse organizations and recognizing efforts.
A quarter of the Committee members were unable to attend this meeting. These absences, while coincidental, had the effect of leaving out input and insights from those committee members - many of whom represented women, minority owned businesses, people of color, and small non-profits. Because the committee is a representative sample of communities affected by the minimum wage, and one person cannot carry the load of an entire point of view, community engagement and input is important to the process.
The next meeting will be held on Thursday, May 31, 2018 with a panel of businesses that are underrepresented at the table to share their thoughts and concerns with the Committee.
About this blog series: SPACC public affairs staff will be attending each of the study committee meetings and writing a recap blog after each meeting in order to keep our members informed of the process. (Since President/CEO B Kyle is the co-chair and an active member of the committee her perspective will be included just like the other participants, but the blog should not be considered to be her opinion personally or a direct reflection of just her role on the committee.) Since the Citizens League will be publishing exhaustive minutes of the meetings, our blog is not meant to be a complete record, but instead will provide an overview of the high points of the meetings and the content. When appropriate, we will also provide analysis of what committee recommendations could mean for our members. If you have a question about the committee please connect with Shannon.