Should Minnesota increase the minimum wage?

This is an occasional college debate series hosted by Today’s Question where we invite debate clubs to frame, guide and debate the day’s discussion question in the comments. Positions taken by the debaters don’t necessarily reflect their views. As always, personal attacks aren’t allowed in this space. The comment thread continues to be open to all. Join in!

The Minneapolis City Council will investigate increasing the state's minimum wage to $12, as well as $15 per hour. Opponents say a higher minimum wage may cause businesses to cut jobs or hire less workers. Currently, the minimum wage in Minnesota is set at $9.

Adam Johnson

Defending the minimum wage boost is Adam Johnson, a freshman entrepreneurial management student at the University of Minnesota.

Minnesota already has a higher minimum wage than almost anywhere else in the country, at least for large employers. Under the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act, large employers with over half a million dollars in annual revenue have to pay their normal workers at least $9 an hour. However, businesses have, in the past, shouldered larger wages than they currently do. In 1968, the minimum wage was worth $10.71 in 2013 dollars, and as recently as 2009, when the federal wage was set at its current level of $7.25, business dealt with a real value that was almost $8 in the middle of the Great Recession.

Now, with a growing economy and decades of lower and middle class wage stagnation, raising the minimum wage can put millions of dollars into the Minnesota economy. It is important to note that raising the minimum wage is not a cure-all for solving poverty. Most minimum wage workers are not under the federal poverty line, even working full time for $9 an hour. However, that doesn’t mean that most minimum wage workers are wealthy. About 70% of minimum wage workers make below the national median income, according to the statistics website 538, while many of the others are young workers in their first jobs.

As Robert Reich, former economic adviser to President Clinton, and many others have noted, a modest increase in the minimum wage can be paid for with increased efficiency, (lower job turnover, training costs, ETC), a slight increase in prices, and slightly decreased profits, not job losses. That’s why 600 economists, including 7 Nobel prize laureates, recently penned a letter to Congress, urging them to increase the minimum wage to $10.10. Minnesota should beat them to the punch and provide real proof that $10.10 an hour is the right minimum wage for the country.

Today's Question: Should Minnesota increase the minimum wage?

MPR News is Reader Funded

Before you keep reading, take a moment to donate to MPR News. Your financial support ensures that factual and trusted news and context remain accessible to all.