Despite gusting winds and rain, over 100 people showed up for the March and Rally to Raise the Minimum Wage on the public lawn in Canal Park Monday evening. The Minimum Wage Coalition sponsored Monday's rally. The coalition's stated goal is to raise the minimum wage to $9.50/hr by 2015. Minnesota's minimum wage is currently $6.15/hr, although this is below the federal minimum of $7.25/hr, so Minnesota's de facto minimum wage is $7.25/hr.
Many UMD students were heavily involved with the rally.
"I've been here since 3:30 p.m.," said junior Emily Nygren, who was passing out stickers while shielding herself from the wind and rain underneath an umbrella. "I'm in support of raising the minimum wage so that families have enough (money) for food, so they can educate their children, and so that they can hope for a better future.”
The march and rally was organized by Zach Sias, field coordinator for the North East Area Labor Council.
"We do our best to get organizations to join the coalition," Sias said. "Just labor or any other one faction can't get it done by themselves." Sias was concerned about attendance on account of the poor weather. "Our goal was 100, which we got, but (there) would have been a lot more if the weather was like yesterday."
In May, Minnesota's House of Representatives passed a bill dictating the minimum wage increase to $9.50/hr by 2015, but it failed to gain support in the Senate.
"Part of the reason we're here is to show the state Senate that the constituents want (to raise the minimum wage)," Sias said. "There are a lot of die-hard supporters here."
The Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) is also in support of a $9.50/hr minimum wage.
"(The MPIRG) board met yesterday in Duluth, and we officially endorsed this campaign," said Steve Wick, one of UMD's MPIRG representatives. "It's really important for the students to get involved,” he said. "Because it's something that will affect them."
Former UMD student Justin Perprich rushed from work to catch the tail end of the rally.
"(I had) to show support for the low-wage workers,” Perprich said. “The current minimum wage is too low. I'm in favor of getting rid of the minimum wage altogether and implementing a living wage instead, at least $13 an hour," Perprich continued. "A living wage will mean less people on programs like (food stamps) and bring up the overall quality of life for everyone."
By JOHN FAHNENSTIEL