Proposal to increase minimum wage - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Proposal to increase minimum wage

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) --  Among the bills in the state legislature with some priority behind them is a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $7.50.

It may not seem enough to live off of especially while trying to support a family, and that is what has prompted the discussion of what minimum wage really is.  The state legislature is quarreling over the proposal of increasing minimum wage for the first time since 2005.

In Rochester, the tone is slightly different.

"Probably a more appropriate discussion when we talk about job quality or quality of jobs is whether or not it's a living wage job," said Gary Smith of Rochester Economic Development Inc. (RAEDI).

Some say $7.50 an hour may not be enough to live off of especially while supporting a family, but Smith says that's not the point. 

"They're not actually out making their living yet," Smith said. "They're earning their money to pay for school. You know...put some gas in the car."

And that was exactly the case for Rochester resident Sonja Sommerfeldt who works at a local car wash.

"I first started when I was in school.  And I finished my bachelor's degree and kept on. Got promoted to general manager down here," Sommerfeldt said.

Sommerfeldt said a minimum wage job isn't about the pay, but it does pay off. 

"You get your foot in the door.  You get paid minimum wage.  It may not pay the bills but it helps you build a better work ethic," Sommerfeldt said.

And she's a perfect example now as a general manager. 

"Once you've proved that you've held a minimum wage job for quite some time, it's easier to move on in the world in the work force."

However living wage versus minimum wage depends on local economy.

"What a living wage job in Rochester compared to what it is in Blooming Prairie is a little bit different," Smith said.

No matter what the wage is, it doesn't mean anything without earning the job first.

"We have lots of folks coming through, filling out applications, just looking to get their foot in the door," Sommerfeldt said.

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