Southwest area has highest share of low-wage workers

Nearly one in five people who work in businesses located in Southwest's House District 60B make less than $7 an hour - the highest percentage of any Minnesota district, according to a state analysis.

The state recently raised the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $6.15 an hour for businesses grossing over $500,000 annually. St. Paul DFL State Sen. Ellen Anderson pushed for an increase to $7 an hour, and asked the state Labor Market Information Office to calculate how many workers would be affected in each district.

District 60B, a residential district, stretches roughly between Lake Street and Diamond Lake Road and Nicollet and France avenues. It is relatively affluent, with an average family income of $105,766 a year, according to the 2000 census.

Kyle Uphoff, state Department of Employment and Economic Development regional analysis and outreach manager, said each district's percentages depend on its industry mix. A particular House District could have an affluent community, but a lot of retail or other lower-paying jobs.

"I don't doubt that is what you could be seeing in that part of Minneapolis," he said.

The $6.15 an hour minimum wage takes effect Aug. 1. It will be $5.25 an hour for businesses with annual gross sales of less than $500,000.

Rep. Frank Hornstein, the DFLer who represents District 60B, said raising the minimum wage affects his district significantly.

"What I said on the floor is that we have a lot of people who work in Southwest Minneapolis, but can't afford to live here," he noted. "I think this really argues not only for justice for low-wage workers, but we better get on the ball developing more affordable housing and improving transit, so that people can get to their jobs and that people can live in or near where they are working."

The median home price in District 60B was $184,026, according to 2000 census data listed on Hornstein's Web site. Median rent was $677 a month.

Carrie Thomas, policy director for Jobs Now, a group advocating higher minimum wages, said approximately 50,000 state workers earn less than the current minimum wage. Of those, 60 percent work 35 hours a week or less and 36 percent receive tips, commissions or overtime.

Statewide, approximately 78,000 workers earn between $5.15 an hour and $6.15 an hour, she said. Workers in Greater Minnesota will benefit most from the minimum wage hike.

The state didn't have district-by-district information on how many workers would benefit from the $6.15 an hour minimum wage.

The state analysis done gives a ballpark estimate. (Uphoff said the analysis was done quickly and includes both full-time and part-time workers.)

For Southwest-area House districts, that analysis showed:

  • 60A (represented by DFLer Margaret Anderson Kelliher): 70,927 total jobs; 2,553, or 3.6 percent, pay $7 an hour or less.

  • 60B (Hornstein): 6,797 total jobs; 1,305, or 19.2 percent, pay $7 an hour

    or less.

  • 61A (DFLer Karen Clark): 20,165 total jobs; 1,391, or 6.9 percent, pay $7 an hour or less.

  • 61B (DFLer Neva Walker): 5,052 total jobs; 647, or 12.8 percent, pay $7 an hour or less.

  • 62B (DFLer Jean Wagenius): 2,603 total jobs; 208, or 8 percent, pay $7 an hour or less.

  • 63A (DFLer Paul Thissen): 19,744 total jobs; 1,402, or 7.1 percent, pay $7 an hour or less.