Many of the nation’s richest retailers count on poverty level wages to pad their multi-billion dollar profit margins, stripping workers’ purchasing power and undermining local economies. This holiday season, Minnesota 2020 is urging shoppers to reward merchants that provide fair wages and benefits, consistent working hours, and reasonable sick and vacation time.
Using Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development data, Minnesota 2020 found that the three sectors most closely associate with the holiday season—department, clothing, and sporting goods stores—pay a median wage of just $9.05 an hour, meaning half of the workers make below that level.
This wage is below the poverty line for most Minnesotans and far short of Minnesota’s living wage for a family of four, which Jobs Now Coalition estimates at roughly $13.55 for two adults working fulltime.
With 70 percent of the nation’s economy based on consumer spending, it’s critical for shoppers to realize the power their dollars have in bringing economic justice for workers at the lowest rung of the wage scale. The same way shoppers could demand certain goods appear on the shelves, they can start asking merchants critical questions about how they treat their workers.
The report lists key questions for consumers to ask stores they frequent, such as:
- Is the store’s minimum wage at least $9.50? (the state house’s proposed new minimum wage)
- Are full-time workers entitled to sick leave and paid vacation?
- Are enough full-time positions made available?
- Is there consistent and predictable scheduling for part-time workers?
These social screens aren’t new, the report adapted them from socially responsible investing models common among faith-based organizations and pension funds and responsible dining guides in Wisconsin, San Francisco, and New York City.
Raising Minnesota’s minimum wage is one way to bring justice for workers immediately and help strengthen the economy. A $9.50 minimum wage would put $470 million in purchasing power into the hands of 357,000 Minnesota workers, helping stimulate local economies. Seventy-seven percent of these workers are 20 years old and older.