Star Tribune: We have no evidence but we’re sure $15/hr is wrong for St. Paul

Three billionaires own as much wealth as the bottom half of the U.S. population. Trump’s tax plan will make inequality worse, offering some of the biggest breaks to the wealthiest and corporations, further straining working people across the U.S. and dismantling Medicare and Medicaid as we know it. This lopsided consolidation of wealth and power has created a dystopic reality for millions struggling to access affordable healthcare, housing, and living wage jobs. In a country with the most consolidated wealth in human history, some working class communities like those in Flint, Michigan have been living for years without access to safe drinking water.

With Trump in the White House, cities need to take the initiative. A $15 minimum wage is one concrete way to do that, to build a more just society. Across the country, and in the Twin Cities, women and people of color disproportionately fill the low-wage jobs that would benefit the most from $15/hour. This is especially important in Minnesota, a state with the worst in the nation racial and economic inequities. $15/hr is a substantial way that elected officials can address the gender pay gap and the deep legacy of systematic racism in the U.S.. In the Twin Cities, Minneapolis took the first step. And now St. Paul has the opportunity to do the same.

The benefits of passing a $15/hr minimum wage in St. Paul far outweigh the negatives. A staggering 40.8% of St. Paul residents live in poverty, with one in four people working in the city earning less than $15/hr. Women and people of color are most likely to earn poverty wages. In fact, all the St. Paul neighborhoods officially designated “concentrated areas of poverty” are also neighborhoods where immigrants and people of color make up large sections of the population. Poverty rates continue to rise in St. Paul, and the fastest growing job sectors in the city are low-wage jobs. Passing $15/hr is potentially the most substantial things St. Paul can do to reverse these troubling trends.

Study after study across the country shows a $15 minimum wage is the bare minimum needed for low-wage workers to make ends meet. Yet in this week’s editorial entitled “St. Paul can do better than Minneapolis”, it’s clear the Star Tribune doesn’t mean a $15/hour proposal that’s better for workers. Appearing to willfully ignore the trove of overwhelming data showing the positive effects of raising the minimum wage to $15/hr, the billionaire-owned Star Tribune editorial board has consistently been the mouthpiece of big business, echoing the same fear-mongering published by the corporate-owned media across the country -- instead arguing to keep workers in poverty to maximize big business profits.

This is why 15 Now, with a coalition of small business, faith, community, labor, and working people, had to build an independent movement to win $15 in Minneapolis. While we built our movement, the Star Tribune editorial board consistently echoed the doomsday arguments put forward by big business interests. But our movement pushed back and set the tone for the conversation on $15/hour at every step of the way. First, the establishment said it was illegal, impossible, then too high. Our movement organized, demonstrated, took strike action, and garnered a majority support in City Hall -- and won.

In the recent city elections, the Star Tribune editorial board backed a slate of candidates heavily subsidized by a corporate backed, pro-developer PAC deceptively named “Minneapolis Works!”. The Minneapolis Works! PAC flooded over $100,000 into the local elections with the aim of defeating candidates who supported $15/hour. With the Star Tribune editorializing in lock-step with billionaire and business interests that will benefit from Trump’s egregious tax proposals, it’s clear the editorial board aims to lobby public opinion against the type of policies that will benefit the rest of us the most -- and not the Strib’s billionaire owner, Glen Taylor. Or the Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Council and the business groups currently suing Minneapolis over $15/hr. The Chamber’s main argument against $15? Big business loses profits that would otherwise go to a company’s millionaire shareholders.

While a $150,000 city-commissioned, comprehensive economic impact study showed $15/hour was not only viable but overwhelmingly benefits Minneapolis workers, the Star Tribune editorial board felt comfortable arguing the exact opposite at every turn. When big business fights this hard, using its resources, friends, and tools like the Star Tribune, we should take their “signs of the apocalypse” as signal that we’re not only doing something right, but these entities are afraid of the power built when working people organize independently in our own interests.

By organizing with ordinary people against the scaremongering of big business, with workers at the forefront of building 15 Now and the coalition that won in Minneapolis, we can win $15/hour for every worker, without carve-outs or exemptions, in St. Paul and across the region.

 In Solidarity, 15 Now Minnesota