St Paul Workers Call for Policy Action Without Delay Following Citizens League Report
Report confirms what working families already know too well: crisis of poverty and inequality in St Paul require leadership from City Hall
On Wednesday morning, workers and community members held a press conference responding to the Citizens League report on question associated with raising St Paul’s minimum wage to the St Paul City Council. The report was commissioned by City Council to do initial fact finding on the issue prompted by the growing movement for a $15 minimum wage in St Paul, and the passage of a $15 minimum wage in Minneapolis in June.
For the tens of thousands of working families living in poverty in St Paul, the report’s analysisabout the crisis of poverty was hardly news. Daniel Maddox, who works as a PCA and is a member of CTUL, has lived and worked in St Paul for 22 years.
“22 years and we’re still waiting for living wages. Twenty-two years and the city hasn’t stepped up for us,” Maddox said. “Now is the time for the city to take a stand and get us the wages we need. We need 15 and we’re putting the city of St Paul on notice.”
A report from the Met Council released in October revealed that 40.8% of St Paul is living and working in poverty. A white paper released by the National Employment Law Project shortly after reported that 1 in 4 jobs in St Paul pay less than $15/hour.
At the press conference, workers responded to some of the questions posed in the Citizens League report. Regarding carve-outs like the youth wage, small business exemption, or tip penalty, workers explained that the answers to these questions are already clear.
“We need a policy that supports all workers, and that’s One Fair Wage,” said Catherine Olsen, a tipped worker at a small local business. “Youth wage and tip penalty are both policies that proven to hurt the most vulnerable workers. They’re completely unenforceable and entirely exploitable. We need to act as soon as possible to make sure that workers aren’t further left behind.”
Workers and community members expressed concern that the report would cause delay in City Hall, urging City Council to begin taking policy action now to move towards passing a $15 minimum wage for all workers now.
Jessa Manthe has been working in retail since she was 16. Attempting to support herself in college while working on the minimum wage proved impossible, forcing her to take out extra loans. “I have huge amounts of debt that I’ll carry with me for the next 25 years. Now our unliveably low wages mean my husband and I aren’t going to be able to buy a house, and having kids is completely off the table,” Manthe said. “I think it's time for Saint Paul to invest in their workers.”