Not Just A Metro Issue: For Greater Minnesota, Poverty Wages Often Present Greater Challenge

All too often, political issues in Minnesota are presented as pitting the interests of the Twin Cities metro area against those of the rest of the state, also known as “Greater Minnesota.”

But despite the rhetoric, raising the minimum wage cuts across all geographic boundaries. Heidi Durand, a City Councilmember from Moorhead, Minnesota, just across the border from Fargo, North Dakota, discovered as much when she joined Working America’s Minimum Wage Challenge.

“I grew up in a working class home and I always knew my mom was an expert at stretching a dollar,” Councilwoman Durand told us, “And like a tidal wave, this challenge has brought her values back into my life.”

The minimum wage budget today 2014 is harder to stretch than it was when Durand’s was growing up. The value of the federal minimum wage of $7.25, adjusted for inflation, is worth $2 less today than it was in 1968.

If the minimum wage had risen with inflation since 1968, it would stand at around $10.50.

As part of our Minimum Wage Challenge, Durand went shopping in Moorhead with the weekly food budget of $35. Her haul included Ramen noodles, beef, eggs, and soup, bypassing more expensive fruits and vegetables. “It was disappointing to have to spend the bulk of my money on products that contain at least 35 percent of your daily allowance for sodium,” she told WDAZ, studying the nutrition facts on a can of soup.

“You think about one person and 35 dollars and think ‘well, that’s not that bad,” Durand added to KVLY, “but we’ll see...I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it on $35 this week.”

Councilwoman Durand, along with Minnesota Reps. Karen Clark, Frank Hornstein, John Lesch, Jason Metsa, and Shannon Savick, are taking our Challenge to raise awareness of the minimum wage; never forgetting that more than 256,000 Minnesota workers currently make less than $9.50 live that challenge every day, and don’t have the option of returning to a more secure lifestyle.

More than 58,000 Minnesota workers who earn less than $9.50 an hour have children who depend on them, stretching that $35 food budget even further.

This fact struck Rep. Jason Metsa, who represents part of Greater Minnesota’s Iron Range. Rep. Metsa took our Minimum Wage Challenge last year and is doing so again in 2014. “It would be even more challenging...if I had a family,” he said during his grocery trip, “I might have to make the hard choice, like giving up my car that requires insurance so that I could have a larger food budget for my kids.”

Later this week, our Minimum Wage Challenge participants will explore how they are able to stretch their transportation budgets. Some, like Minneapolis Rep. Frank Hornstein, can take public transportation to work at the Capitol, while Rep. Metsa has a three hour drive.

Tell the Minnesota Senate to pass HR 92 and raise the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2015.