Minnesota became the latest state to pass legislation raising its minimum wage yesterday, when Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill that will increase pay for the state's lowest earners to $9.50 per hour by 2016. The new law will amend the state's current minimum wage of $6.15 per hour—one of the lowest in the country—in a series of hourly wage hikes, the first of which will go into effect this August. For Minnesota's Raise the Wage coalition, the new law is the fruit of 15 months of dedicated organizing, lobbying and media work. Once the State House approved a $9.50 per hour minimum wage last May, the coalition of labor, community and faith organizations pressured the State Senate to adopt a similar position by way of public demonstrations, community outreach initiatives and meetings with state legislators. The Senate finally struck a deal with the House last Thursday. The Associated Press reports: Minnesota goes from having one of the nation's lowest minimums to among the highest. With federal wage legislation stuck in Congress, states are rushing to fill the void. California, Connecticut and Maryland have passed laws pushing their respective wages to $10 or more in coming years, and other states are going well above the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour. Not all Minnesota workers have qualified for the federal minimum, which is required if someone engages in an interstate transaction such as swiping a credit card at the cash register. For large Minnesota employers, mandatory hourly pay will climb to $8 in August, $9 a year later and $9.50 in 2016. Smaller employers that have gross sales below $500,000 will also have to pay more, though their rate reaches only $7.75 per hour by 2016. There are also carve-outs for teen workers or those getting trained into new jobs. The law—which endured widespread GOP disapproval in its passing, ostensibly because such a move would be "out of step" with the minimum wage laws of Minnesota's neighboring states—will relieve some of the financial burden on the state's working poor. Early estimates suggest that as many as 325,000 Minnesotans will experience a rise in pay.
Alex Wolff is a Spring 2014 editorial intern.