A new report said black workers in Minnesota and across the U.S. would see the biggest boost if Congress raises the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Raise the Wage Act of 2019 would increase wages for 38 percent of all black workers, and for 23 percent of whites, according to the Economic Policy Institute report. The measure, introduced last month in Congress, would increase the federal minimum wage in six steps to $15 per hour by 2024.
Wade Luneburg with the hospitality union Unite Here said Minnesotans who work full time, regardless of race, shouldn’t have to live in poverty and, “I do believe that it would have a large impact on all people of color and also women in the workforce. So many minimum-wage jobs and low-wage jobs fall into things like fast food, and hospitality, retail, building services.”
The minimum wage in Minnesota is currently $9.86 an hour and is set to be adjusted every year according to inflation. The federal minimum has not increased since 2009.
Critics of raising the wage floor have argued that most minimum-wage workers are teenagers, not heads of households, and say the move would lead to job losses or higher costs passed along to consumers.
Luneburg points to years of research showing that teenagers do not make up the majority of minimum-wage workers in Minnesota or nationally and, “These folks are the head of a family; they’re often working two jobs. I can speak for workers in our industry; they are oftentimes working in a hotel during the day, and in the evening they’re cleaning office towers.”
He added that when the minimum wage goes up, that money goes directly back into the economy for food, rent and other essential expenses.
The report also found that not only are black workers disproportionately represented in minimum-wage jobs, they are also less likely to live in areas that have taken steps to raise the wage floor.