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Heated Debate Over Mpls. Minimum Wage Hike

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The debate was heated Thursday afternoon at Minneapolis City Hall as city councilmembers considered raising the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Supporters argued this pay increase will help thousands of people get out of poverty. However, many business owners said they simply can't afford the pay hike, and, if it goes into effect, the city will end up losing jobs.

Supporters for a $15 minimum wage in Minneapolis point to the city's own findings that 48 percent of workers in Minneapolis -- or 150,000 people -- earn less than a living wage.

The pay hike would benefit 71,000 workers, like 16-year-old Cherokee Senevisai.

"It would mean a lot, because I have a lot of expenses to pay for as myself coming from a lower middle class family," he said at the hearing.

But some businesses and employees argued before the city council that a $15 minimum wage, especially for tipped workers, would either mean jacking up the prices of services or cutting down how many workers the businesses can afford to keep on.

"If you squeeze our business owners too hard, the consequences will come out on us, we will lose our wages," said Sarah Webster, a tipped worker. "Currently, we, as an average, make over $28 an hour, so if you don't count our wages as tips then our wages drop to 15 dollars an hour."

Currently, more than half of city council members support passing the ordinance and increasing pay, saying poverty in the city is concentrated among people of color, children and female-headed households. They argue that paying workers more would eventually help the entire city by giving people more opportunities for success.

"I just want to be self-sufficient," said Kelly Doug, single parent, at the hearing. "I think raising the minimum wage would really help women that are struggling with their children by themselves."

For now, there's a tentative plan to raise the minimum wage over five years.

Large businesses with more than 100 workers would front-end-load higher pay hikes early. Small businesses could raise wages more slowly.

In the end, all workers in Minneapolis would earn $15 an hour by 2022.

A final vote on the measure is expected next Friday.

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