By Quinton Skinner
Balancing business bottom lines with livable incomes for workers is at the heart of contentious minimum-wage debates across the country. With the issue coming to St. Paul, the Citizens League has convened an independent committee to study it and make recommendations to the city based on input from a variety of stakeholders and community members.
“There are a lot of interesting voices in the room,” says committee cochair and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota political director Rick Varco. “It’s a group with a lot of people with strong feelings, and people who are trying to work their way through the issue—people with strong opinions who are also coming to listen and learn.”
The study committee includes 21 individuals from the corporate world, food service, organized labor, small business, and civic organizations. The goal was to have representatives from executive circles as well as hourly wage earners.
“We’re getting everybody on the same page in terms of base understanding of wages, and other cities and the laws they’ve enacted, and the subsequent impact on the marketplace,” says St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Brenda “B” Kyle.
In addition to internal dialogue, the group is reviewing national research and hopes to make recommendations this August. Naturally, everyone at the table is aware of the gradually phased-in minimum-wage law passed in Minneapolis last year. “The Minneapolis debate provides a lot of important information, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Varco says.
“We haven’t gotten to the contentious stage yet, but I imagine it will be challenging,” Kyle says. There will not be a 100 percent winner, no matter what we decide. But we’re all burdened with this responsibility, and in that, we’re united.”
Quinton Skinner is a Twin Cities-based writer whose work has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. He is the cofounder of Logosphere Storysmiths.