AG Swanson calls for state minimum wage hike

NEW ULM – Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said Saturday that Minnesota’s current minimum wage buys less than the minimum wage did in 1968.

“The Rev. Martin Luther King (MLK) marched against the minimum wage in 1968, but it would take an $11 minimum wage just to match the minimum wage back then,” Swanson said at the Brown County DFL Convention at the New Ulm Civic Center.

“It’s about dignity and economic opportunity for families…We get many calls and letters about middle class people who say they’re afraid they can’t pay their children’s college costs,” Swanson said. “We have child labor laws to protect families, but we need to address wages. Legislation meeting the $7.50 federal minimum wage would pass the legislature, but we need more than that.”

House Democrats and Gov. Mark Dayton are pushing for a $9.50 per hour minimum wage this session. About 83,000 Minnesota hourly workers – about five percent of all state hourly workers – make $7.25 an hour or less, according to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.

Swanson said she’s hearing more and more about “for-profit colleges” that peddle degrees that don’t qualify students for the jobs they advertise they do. “These colleges get federal student loan money that can’t be recovered in bankruptcy. They’re selling myths,” Swanson said. “There are lots of open cases like this.”

Minnesota District 16B Rep. candidate James Kanne of rural Franklin echoed Swanson on the minimum wage issue. “Hourly workers need a living wage,” Kanne said. “When I campaigned door to door, I talked to lots of couples that said they were each working two or three jobs each besides raising children. I’m not talking about people asking for handouts. I’m talking about hard working people.”

Kanne said this area needs a legislator who knows farming from the ground up, which is how he described himself. “Agriculture is the most important thing we do in this area.”

He said taxes have been twisted to favor the elite and that money needs to be set aside for road and bridge improvements.

Secretary of State Candidates and legislators Steve Simon and Debra Hilstrom spoke at the convention. Chairman of the House Elections Committee, Simon wrote the new law allowing “no-excuse” absentee voting and helped lead the campaign against the “Photo ID” amendment. He supports online voting registration and

Hilstrom said Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has done a good job getting important things online like services that assist small businesses. “I helped start a plan to help small businesses start,” Hilstrom said. “Most Minnesota jobs come from small businesses. They’re really important to our economy. I support campaign finance reform to get ride of corporate money in campaign financing.”

Brown County DFL State Convention Delegates elected at the convention are Jane and Myra Soukup, George Kennedy, Matt Berger and Todd Christiansen, all of New Ulm. Alternates are Sandy and Janet Zilka and Arlene Stewart, all of Sleepy Eye plus Terry Sveine and Franz Kitzberger, both of New Ulm.

Brown County DFL resolutions include:

Urging legislators to recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity, allowing farmers to produce it without federal applications, licenses or fees.

Supporting township and county governments to continue to operate.

Restoring voting rights to Minnesotans convicted of a felony while they are on probation or parole.

Amending the U.S. Constitution to reverse damaging effects of Citizens’ United.

Reinstating the Voting Rights Act.

Supporting net neutrality to keep a few powerful phone and cable companies from controlling internet content and user fees to all users and making it very hard for small firms or start-ups from competing with established companies.

The legislature passing an anti-bullying law in line with national bullying laws.

Opposing efforts to privatize public education via the expansion of charters, vouchers or other privately-run programs at the expense of public schools.

Supporting the Health Insurance Transparency and Accountability (HITA) bill for efficiency and cost savings to purchasing school employee health insurance.

Supporting environmental protection laws on fracking including sand mining.

Recruiting more clean energy businesses and jobs to Minnesota and the transition of all state “dirty” coal-fired power plants to cleaner energy by 2030.

Requiring disclosure of electioneering communications.

Defining the term responsible contractor for public construction contracting.

That gerrymandering cease as a practice and independent, non-partisan committees determine congressional districts after the census.

Eliminating the debt ceiling provision and all debt to automatically paid according to Section 4 of Amendment 14, (without question).

Increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and ensure it keeps pace with future inflation.

Supporting citizens’ rights to privacy from warrant-less searches or snooping by any government.

Supporting legislation to limit carbon emissions.

Not allowing sulfide ore mining from the Boundary Waters to beyond Lake Superior.

Not supporting using taxpayer money for stadiums without involved taxpayers voting on it.

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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