RIGHTS BLOG: Updates from the Department of Human Rights


Bill raises minimum wage for over 350,000 Minnesotans

Posted on 4/7/14

Today, Minnesota lawmakers announced an outlined deal between leaders of the House and Senate for a $9.50 per hour minimum wage, which would rise with inflation unless, a Governor vetoed an increase during troubled economic times.

For Minnesotans working, living and trying to raise a family on a minimum wage, this news comes as a welcome lifeline.

  • The JOBS NOW Coalition estimates that a couple with two children would have to work 155 hours per week at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 in order to meet basic needs.
  • Teens make up less than a quarter of workers affected by the minimum wage increase.
  • According to the US Small Business Administration, 77 percent of Minnesota small businesses are owner-operated with no employees, and thus will incur no cost from the minimum wage increase.

Among the key findings in the report “A Raise for Minnesota,” a $9.50 an hour minimum wage would:

  • Improve the income of 357,000 working Minnesotans across the demographic spectrum.
  • Improve the income of 274,000 working adults, age 20 and up.
  • Improve the income of 202,000 working women.
  • Improve economic security for 137,000 children whose parents are low-wage earners.
  • Of the workers who will get a raise, 23 percent are nonwhite.

Contrast this statistical imagery with the statistical picture of America’s wealthiest.

  • In America, the top 20 percent of the population own 72 percent of the nation’s wealth. By comparison, the poorest 20 percent of the U.S. population only own 3 percent of the wealth.
  • Income disparities between 1979 and 2007 increased:
    • The top 1 percent of earners in the nation saw their share of the national income double from 10 percent to 20 percent.
    • Meanwhile the bottom 40 percent of the nation’s workers saw their share of the national income decline slightly from 13 to 10 percent.

As we step away from the statistics, today’s Legislative deal to increase the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour will help over 350,000 Minnesotans make an annual income of $19,760 a year. While, the minimum wage increase will not catapult these workers into another income bracket, it is a step towards dignity for hard working Minnesotans.


Bill strengthens protections against bullying in Minnesota Schools

Posted on 4/4/14

Almost a year after the Minnesota House passed its version of the bill, the Senate has approved HF 826 by a 36-31 vote following nearly six hours of debate.

The bill strengthens protections against bullying in Minnesota schools, establishes a more inclusive definition of prohibited conduct and provides tools to ensure a safe school climate for all Minnesota students.

“By strengthening this bill, Minnesota sends a message to our students and future workforce that they deserve to enjoy the benefits of education without fear of bullying and discrimination,” said Commissioner Kevin Lindsey.”

The current law, Minn. Stat. 121.0695 is one of the weakest in the nation. HF 826 provides a clearer definition of bullying, a statewide policy for its prevention, and training and resources for school staff.

“There are presently only 37 words in Minnesota Statutes to protect our schoolchildren from the ever-increasing dangers of bullying,” said Gov. Mark Dayton. “I support the stronger protections in the anti-bullying bill, which just passed the Minnesota Senate, to provide local school districts with the guidance and support they need to make it very clear that bullying will not be allowed in our schools.”

The Commissioner of Human Rights would assist the Commissioner of Education in developing the state model policy and would occupy a seat on the new School Climate Council, monitoring the policy’s implementation and disseminating resources on bullying prevention and intervention. MDHR would work with the School Climate Center and other implicated agencies to continuously evaluate and improve school safety.

HF 826 now returns to the House – which must approve the changes the bill has accumulated since last May – before being sent for approval to Governor Mark Dayton, who has already expressed his support.

The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. MDHR will track points in history leading up to the historical signing of the bill into law on July 2, 1964.