Duluth City Council backs minimum wage increase

By KBJR News 1

February 10, 2014 Updated Feb 10, 2014 at 9:08 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The city council approved a resolution at its Monday meeting to support a minimum wage increase to at least $9.50 an hour, making it the first city in Minnesota to do so.

The council voted 8 to 1.

The resolution is a symbolic move endorsing legislative action in St. Paul during the 2014 session.

A number of Duluth City Councilors, along with Mayor Don Ness, and job councilors from Duluth Workforce Development, gathered at City Hall to make the announcement Monday afternoon.

The pitch from lawmakers calls for increasing the minimum wage to $9.50 over the course of the next two years.

The last bump was in 2005 when the minimum hourly wage increased to $6.15 an hour.

City Councilor Sharla Gardner said a wage hike is long overdue.

"People who work full time should be able to pay their bills. They should be able to make a living. They shouldn't have to be living in fear that they won't be able to make their rent, or their house payment, or pay medical bills, or have enough food to eat," Gardner said.

According to Minnesota's "Raise the Wage Coalition", a wage increase to $9.50 an hour would provide a raise for 357,000 across the state. It would boost purchase power by $470 million.

The same study shows 8,000 to 9,000 workers in Duluth would be impacted most.

Not all City Councilors were on board with the vote.

Jay Fosle said the council isn't in a position to support a raise. Instead he says individual city councilors should reach out to lawmakers on their own on the issue.

As for the dollar amount, Fosle felt it could hurt small businesses if the hike jumps dramatically.

Another plan approved by legislators calls for an increase to $7.25 an hour, the current federal minimum wage.

Written by Kevin Jacobsen
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