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Austin's Mayor Joins Call to Raise Minimum Wage

Created: 02/11/2014 6:52 PM KAALtv.com
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It's going to be one of the hot-button issues of the 2014 Minnesota legislative session, and when lawmakers start talking minimum wage, a new coalition has given them a target.

“At least $9.50, indexed to inflation," said Joe Sheeran of the “Raise The Wage” coalition.

It’s  a group of faith organizations, non-profits, labor groups and research organizations urging lawmakers to increase Minnesota's minimum wage.

"I think it's important that workers make a decent living," said Austin mayor Tom Stiehm. He’s now one of about a dozen Minnesota mayors who have come out in support of a $9.50 state minimum. "Government has a place to protect the workers at a certain point, and I think that's what a minimum wage does."

“Our basic position is it's hard to legislate prosperity. We believe in letting the marketplace set the standard," said Sandy Forstner at the Austin-area Chamber of Commerce.

Minnesota's current minimum wage is $6.15 for larger employers and $5.25 for smaller companies.

"We're looking at roughly 3,000 workers in Austin and Albert Lea who could see a potential raise with the $9.50," said Joe Sheeran of Raise The Wage.

"Our position is to mirror the federal rate," said the Chamber’s Sandy Forstner.

The federal minimum is $7.25, and President Obama is pushing Congress to raise that.

"It would help a lot of families make ends meet,” the President said.

“Particularly being a border state such as we are for us to somehow arbitrarily set a higher rate than our neighbors would be wrong-minded," the Chamber’s Sandy Forstner told us.

“The market has failed workers. Minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation," Joe Sheeran said.