Hennepin County Board Chair Marion Greene introduced a measure today that would raise the hourly minimum wage for county employees from $15 per hour to $20 per hour.
The resolution passed unanimously out of committee and will go for a final vote next week at the board meeting on March 23.
The last minimum wage increase for employees was five years ago. “It was time to move this forward,” said Greene. “The most compelling reason for this increase is to improve lives for our employees at the lower end of our pay scales.”
The low minimum wage disproportionately impacts marginalized people including Black and Indigenous people, people of color, people with disabilities and women — all who stand to benefit the most from this increase. “The combination of low wages and high rent keeps upward economic mobility for our residents out of reach. An hourly wage increase has the ability to immediately impact the well-being of county employees at the lower end of our pay scales. This is about money in people’s pockets,” said Greene. “This is one step the county can take as an employer, but it isn’t a complete solution. I hope that other employers in the region follow our example.”
About one-third of households in Hennepin County are housing cost burdened, meaning they pay more than 30% of their income toward housing. More than 41,000 county residents pay more than half of their income towards rent. This puts these people at risk of being unable to meet other basic needs.
“This change aligns with the county’s goal of reducing disparities in income and employment areas,” said County Administrator David Hough. “It also aligns with our workforce development strategy to potentially move clients off government support. But this is just one part of a larger regional problem we need to solve. We need regional employers to look at wages to help be a part of this solution.”
The new wage would go into effect starting March 28. In addition to the immediate increase, the board has directed an annual review of the minimum hourly wage and an increase when employment market data and other economic conditions warrant.
This raises the floor for county employees to make $20 an hour but does not increase current pay ranges in job classifications. The five-dollar-an-hour increase could increase earnings for a full-time employee by nearly ten thousand dollars annually. The increase would affect more than 400 employees.