After a long fight, led by grassroots organizers and low-wage workers themselves, Minneapolis finally decided last Friday to increase our minimum wage to $15 an hour -- an overdue step, but one that will provide a significant economic boost by redistributing a portion of our city’s wealth.
I am, and have been, supportive of bringing our minimum wage to a level that matches the rising cost of living in Minneapolis, through a phased implementation that allows our small business community the leeway they need to comfortably raise wages for their valued employees. Many of those small business owners are part of working families themselves, and they need support as well.
Friday’s decision to support a wage increase marked a step forward. I know how much a pay boost can mean for folks trying to make ends meet -- I worked with union leaders on a successful push to increase the state minimum wage in Illinois. But working families need leaders who won’t stop there.
Indeed, the most significant way a City Council member can affect our community is by ensuring that working families have the opportunity to live with stability and safety. That starts with a living wage and fair scheduling, but if we want to ensure everyone’s basic human needs are met -- and that everyone can be dynamic participants in our vibrant local economy -- we need to think bigger.
As part of the City Council, I look forward to bringing a holistic perspective to the table. Our city’s economic vitality depends on the success of working families. And working families’ ability to live well depends on ongoing efforts to ease the burdens of necessary expenses, including, but not limited to, housing, healthcare, childcare, education, and transportation.
Minneapolis’ next step must be addressing our housing crunch.
As Policy Director at the Minnesota Housing Partnership, I know deeply the critical role of safe and stable housing. It’s a proven contributor to better health and education outcomes, especially for children. But our tight housing market, combined with stagnant wages, puts this sense of home out of reach for too many of our neighbors. They’re working hard, but our system is not working for them.
We need to increase our investment in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and to work with our partners at Hennepin County and in the housing sector to preserve the affordable units we have. We need to learn from models implemented in other cities that integrate affordable housing into new projects. I know what meaningful housing policy looks like, because I get it done at the state level. I’m eager to bring that expertise to City Hall.
We still have plenty of work ahead of us if we want to truly lift up all our residents -- especially low-wage workers. Working families need a champion that knows they need more than a pay boost. They need an experienced advocate who understands and prioritizes what they need to not simply get by, but to thrive.
I’m a big believer in Senator Wellstone’s philosophy that we all do better when we all do better. Minneapolis definitely has room to do better, and I’m ready to get to work.