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Minimum wage discussion continues

The debate continues as to whether Minnesota should increase the state’s minimum wage to $9.50.

The conference committee on HF92/SF3, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL- Golden Valley) and Sen. Chris Eaton (DFL-Brooklyn Center), met Thursday to hear testimony on increasing the state’s minimum wage from the current $6.15 per hour to $9.50 by 2015. Nearly 50 people were on-hand to testify. The conference committee will reconvene Friday afternoon. No time as been set.

Mike Jennings, from Jimmy’s Restaurant and speaking on behalf of the Minnesota License and Beverage Association, said that a wage increase of this magnitude would be detrimental for restaurants.

“With an increase like this, can we really absorb this?” he said. “It’s not really an option.”

He added that he looked at the prices of an Applebee’s burger in Minnesota and in Oregon, where the minimum wage in $9.50. He found that a burger at an Applebee’s in Minnesota was $9.50 and in Oregon the same burger was $10.99.

“The fact is that there isn’t enough money to go around for your cooks and other non-tipped employees,” he said.

Danny Schwartzman, owner of Common Roots Café and catering, said he pays a minimum of $11 per hour.

“I have seen higher retention rates because employees are happier,” he said. “This leads to better service because without a high turnover you have more experienced employees.”

A side-by-side comparison of the bills shows that the House bill would incrementally increase the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 for large employers and $8.50 for small employers by 2015. The Senate bill would allow an increase to $7.75 by 2015. Other differences include:

  • The House would require that during the first 90 days of employment, those under age 20 would be paid at least $8 by 2015; the Senate would increase this wage to $5.15 per hour from $4.90, but require large employers to pay at least $7.25 per hour.
  • The House bill requires that if an employee works more than 40 hours per week, the employee is paid one and half times their regular pay rate. This is down from 48 hours. The Senate does not contain this provision;
  • The House bill also includes increasing parental leave from six weeks to twelve weeks for natural and adoptive parents. 

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