Labor Groups ND Keeps Losing Ground on Minimum Wage / Public News Service

The start of the new year saw a number of states boost their minimum wage, but not North Dakota. Labor leaders say it’s remained at $7.25 an hour for far too long, especially with neighboring states continuing to go higher.

South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota rang in the new year with higher minimum wages, with those increases tied to inflation.

Kooper Caraway, president of the South Dakota Federation of Labor, said not only does it put more money in the hands of workers and their families, but it helps to keep jobs filled.

“Since the minimum wage was increased and tied to inflation, South Dakota’s always had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country,” Caraway observed. “And the good thing is that we also have a robust labor movement, and that robust labor movement is raising wages much higher than the minimum wage.”

South Dakota’s latest increase, the result of a voter-approved measure in 2014, brought its wage to $9.95 an hour.

In North Dakota, worker advocates fear residents will abandon the state, even with jobs available, because the lower threshold will make it harder to survive. Last year, North Dakota lawmakers rejected a proposed hike, with concerns raised about the impact on businesses.

Landis Larson, president of the North Dakota AFL-CIO, said it is frustrating cost-of-living measures are similar in the four-state region. He argued it gives North Dakota policymakers no excuse for not taking action.

“They really want to do their best to make a friendly business climate, but they forget about the worker climate,” Larson asserted. “It’s a two-way street.”

Rep. LaurieBeth Hager, D-Fargo, was behind last year’s plan to increase North Dakota’s minimum wage, and said being far behind other states is especially troubling right now.

“When you look at the increases in housing costs, and fuel costs and grocery costs, all of those things are exponentially rising, and the minimum wage has just bottomed out,” Hager stated.

Hager added a more likely scenario in which North Dakota increases its minimum wage is by taking it to the voters, but other supporters say such a plan has to be tied to inflation.

Disclosure: North Dakota AFL-CIO contributes to our fund for reporting on Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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