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Snow Day Adds Greater Difficulty for Workers on Minimum Wage: Legislators Taking Challenge Find Budgets Stretched and Options Limited

Inclement Weather in Minnesota Puts Urgent Need for Increased Minimum Wage Into New Perspective

Minneapolis–Saint Paul, MN- Legislators taking Working Minnesota’s Minimum Wage Challenge were met with an additional hurdle in their struggle to stay within their budget for the week. Snowy conditions across the state have caused small disruptions in the daily routine for some, while others have been delayed or prevented from getting to work.

As part of the Minimum Wage Challenge, state Rep. Frank Hornstein has been taking the bus to work to stretch his meager transportation budget for the week and recounted his experience this morning: “I was able to get to a meeting with the help of a neighbor, and today I will hop on a few more buses to get to a few more meetings. I am facing minor inconveniences compared to what a minimum wage worker has to face. Minneapolis Public Schools are closed today. People were just informed at 5:30 a.m. of that. So they are choosing between the job they possibly can't get to and having to scramble for child care. These are choices no one should have to make.”

Rep. Shannon Savick is also participating in the Minimum Wage Challenge and was impacted by the snow. “For many people in our area of southern Minnesota, the weather the past few days has really limited what kind of travel you can do. When you're working a job that pays by the hour, you can't afford to miss work. The first couple days of the challenge I did a lot of driving for work around the district,” Rep. Savick said. “Luckily my gas tank was full when we started the challenge, but already I've spent $35 to put more gas in my car. With the roads in such bad shape, I'm not able to drive to work events. If I were truly working a minimum wage job this would mean losing one or two days of wages because of weather. That's over a hundred dollars out of this week's wages. It's tough to imagine how low wage workers are able to make it through winter at all.”

Reps. Hornstein and Savick are two of five state Representatives from across Minnesota participating in the Minimum Wage Challenge. Reps. Karen Clark (District 62A), John Lesch (District 66B), and Jason Metsa (District 6B), along with Heidi Durand, a City Council member from Moorhead, are also taking the challenge.

The Challenge started Feb. 18th and is running through Feb. 24th, the start of the Minnesota legislative session. It is part of a statewide push to highlight the critical need to pass a Minnesota minimum wage increase. Rep. Ryan Winkler is the sponsor of a bill in the Minnesota House that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $6.15 to $9.50 per hour, which will be considered when the legislature is back in session. The legislators are living on the federal minimum wage, $7.25 per hour, for the week.

The first day of the Challenge focused on setting a budget for things like food and transportation to determine, roughly, what is affordable. On the second and third day of the Challenge, participants went grocery shopping within the means of their budget and have been exploring housing and transportation options. On Monday, participants will host a “reality check” meeting with low-wage workers whose real experiences shed light on the impact of bad economic policies better than any week-long challenge possibly could.

256,000 Minnesotans currently make less than $9.50 an hour. For them, raising the minimum wage is about more than politics; it’s about the opportunity to weather whatever unexpected storm comes their way.


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