As St. Paul city officials continue to look at a $15 per hour minimum wage, the implications for working people with disabilities and support staff and caregivers also continue to be scrutinized. The wage policy was the topic of a public hearing November 7 and could be adopted later this month, taking effect by year’s end.
The issue has many facets for the state’s disability community. St. Paul’s proposed ordinance carves out exemptions for some workers with disabilities. But it poses potential complications for people who don’t live in the capital city, but who come here to take part in activities. That’s especially true for self-advocates who require support staff help for daily activities, who wish to work or attend legislative rallies, committee meetings floor sessions and advocacy trainings. Their staff will need to be paid more for the time spent in St. Paul.
A lot of what happens in St. Paul and statewide hinges on the November 6 election. Democratic candidate for governor Tim Walz declared support during the campaign for a higher minimum wage statewide, calling it “aspirational.”
Republican Jeff Johnson doesn’t support a $15 minimum wage and has also said he is opposed to the ability of Minnesota cities to implement their own minimum wages. More cities have look at their own policies, with Minneapolis adopting its minimum wage last year.
Walz has said he wouldn’t try to pre-empt the city-by-city policies if he is elected governor.
But it isn’t just the governor who controls any statewide move to a higher minimum wage. Which party controls the House and Senate also was at stake November 6. All House seats were on the ballot, and one Senate seat in a special election.
If lawmakers passed a higher statewide minimum wage, that likely would end what has been a five-year battle at the state level. Legislators in 2014 increased the minimum wage. With an inflation adjustment approved by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, it will go up on Jan. 1 to $9.86 per hour for large employers, from $9.65 an hour; and $8.04 for smaller employers, up from $7.87 an hour.
In the meantime, St. Paul officials move toward a higher minimum wage of their own. Almost all of the city council members have signed on to the wage increase ordinance. Mayor Melvin Carter has said he’ll sign it. The two implications in St. Paul that have to be considered are who is and who isn’t exempt, and how staff who accompany people into the city are treated.
Anyone with a disability who comes to St. Paul to lobby legislators, attend a rally or do any other activity must pay his or her staff the $15 per hour minimum wage. The city wage requirement kicks in if the person and staff are in the city for more than one hour per year. Thus far no disability advocacy groups have spoken out about the requirement. The complexities of paying different wages by locale has been raised by business advocacy groups, if the person with disabilities and staff are in the city for more than an hour.
Two groups of workers with disabilities would be exempt from the higher minimum wage requirement. One is workers under the extended employment program. Itis a program of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. This is a program with a focus on competitive, integrated employment. The second exemption is for people with disabilities receiving home and community-based services identified in state statute.
Follow the St. Paul wage debate, view public hearing podcasts and read information at www.stpaul.gov.