Working Minnesota

Five Minnesota Legislators Will Live On Minimum Wage This Week

February 18, 2014

Five Minnesota politicians aren’t just talking the talk about raising the minimum wage, they are walking the walk too.

Today, a slew of State Representatives gathered for a press conference to announce their week-long participation in the Working America Minimum Wage Challenge this week.

Representative Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley), who moderated the press conference, announced that from February 18th to the 24th Reps will be required to “live” on Minnesota’s $7.25 an hour minimum wage (Minnesota’s real minimum wage is $6.15 but the federal minimum is $7.25). Rep. Winkler is also the sponsor of HR 92, which would raise the state minimum wage to $9.50 by 2015 and index it to inflation. The bill passed the House last May.

Last year, Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) participated and found it to be nothing short of difficult. This year Metsa is giving the challenge another go.

During the press conference participants used data from the Jobs Now Coalition to create a budget based on their new wages. The budget allocates a weekly allowance of $35 for groceries, $278 a month for transportation and $359 a month for housing, to name a few.

At first glance the budget may seem terribly unmanageable but the reality is that, in Minnesota, this is a reality for many working Americans. Specifically, this is a reality for almost 90,000 hourly workers.

The Minimum Wage Challenge is part of a larger effort by Rep. Winkler, Working America, and the broad Raise the Wage coalition to raise awareness around the minimum wage. Winkler’s goal is to pass the wage increase within the first two weeks of the Minnesota legislative session.

Calling the proposed $9.50 an hour increase a “realistic range,” Rep. Winkler also noted that as of late, support in favor of raising the wage was growing.

The five State Representatives participating are Karen Clark (DFL-Minneapolis), Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis), John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul), Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) and Shannon Savick (DFL-Wells). Reps. Lesch, Hornstein, and Savick attended the press conference.

During the press conference, Lesch noted that too many members of the Minnesota legislature talk about “living within our means” without fully grasping the reality of minimum wage work.

“We want to show the urgency of this issue by taking on these challenges of daily living,” Rep. Winkler said. “Although this week cannot replicate nor do justice to someone’s actual experience, we hope that they at least open a window into the critical situation faced by Minnesota workers.”

Tomorrow, representatives will be tasked with turning $35 into a week’s worth of food at local grocery stores.

Follow the challenge on Facebook and Twitter and visit here at WorkingMinnesota.org for more ways to get involved in the fight to #RaisetheWage!

Photo via @FairMN on Twitter

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