Posted: 04/15/14 00:58
by Dave Mindeman
The compromises that occurred with the minimum wage legislation are very evident. The raw numbers are good and necessary, but the indexing portion has left enough ambiguity to throw a wrench to the works.
Some analysis done for MinnPost posted by David Brauer was especially disconcerting....
Had Monday's deal been in place since 1976 (the year lawmakers increased the state minimum to $1.80 an hour), the minimum wage would stand at just $3.91 today, not the current $6.15 (and all calculations assume a governor doesn't override annual increases, a power the deal grants).
Standard indexing was taken off the table and a lesser form of increases was established in law. This method will NOT keep up with inflation and periodic adjustments will, again, be necessary.
But Republican gubernatorial candidates seized on another provision that will almost certainly become a political football....
Under the DFL deal to raise the state's minimum wage to $9.50 per hour with an inflation index starting in 2018, Minnesota's Commissioner of the Department Labor and Industry can suspend indexing the wage for up to 12 months -- if leading economic indicators point to a "substantial downturn in the state's economy."
Since the Commissioner of DLI is appointed by the Governor, this will become an executive branch option on minimum wage.
This creates a scenario whereby Republican candidates (and the current ones have already stated this) will take the opportunity to halt wage increases for the low end of the wage scale - while Democratic governors will more than likely let the upward adjustment go through.
This will be another means of pitting business vs labor in our quadrennial race for chief executive of the state. Business will side with Republicans and Labor will side with the Democrats.
Now, if the GOP wants to establish a precedent that contends they will always be denying low wage earners any kind of raise, then that is the chance they will take in the electoral process. The election mailers will be out in full force - and there may be some difficulty for Republican candidates to persuade 350,000 workers affected that voting GOP will be to their benefit.
Yes, business will like it and it may help fundraising - but corporate "people" aren't voters....and votes is still the final arbiter.
This minimum wage law hasn't quite fulfilled the potential it could have. I am glad that it passed, but compromises here were unworthy of the effort.
Only time can tell us if we achieved full value for our workers.