Minnesota minimum wage set to rise with inflation in 2018

The minimum wage will rise by 15 cents to $9.65 per hour for most businesses around the state.

By Erin Golden Star Tribune
AUGUST 17, 2017 – 11:38PM

Minnesota’s minimum wage will increase next year by 15 cents to keep up with inflation, rising to $9.65 per hour for workers at many businesses across the state.

The increase, announced Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, is effective Jan. 1, 2018. It’s the result of a 2014 law that boosted the minimum wage to $9.50 and required the state to begin calculating automatic inflationary increases for each year, starting with 2018.

About 250,000 Minnesota workers earn less than $9.65 per hour. Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said in a statement that the wage bump is aimed at helping those residents build economic stability.

“Our state and nation was founded on the belief that hard work and opportunity should go hand in hand,” Smith said. “Raising the minimum wage will help make this value a reality for thousands of Minnesotans, many of them people of color and women with children.”
The new rate applies to workers at businesses with annual gross revenue of $500,000 or more. Employees at businesses with lower revenue, who now make $7.75 per hour, will see their minimum wage rise by 12 cents, to $7.87 per hour. That will also be the new training rate for workers younger than 20 for the first 90 days of employment, and for youth workers under age 18.

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Roundtable exposes extent of wage theft

By Steve Share
April 27, 2017

One worker after another, they described how employers failed to pay them for work they performed. They included a truck driver, a home health care worker, a retail cleaner and a school worker. All spoke at a roundtable Wednesday hosted by the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service and moderated by Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith.

The event highlighted the problem of wage theft in Minnesota and pointed to legislation to improve enforcement when wage theft occurs.

“It is so completely wrong,” Smith said. “Wage theft is stealing.”

In some industries, such as construction, employers intentionally and routinely steal wages from workers, said Burt Johnson, attorney for the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters. It is “a business model” that the union refers to as “payroll fraud.”

Lt. Gov. Smith said her understanding of wage theft has grown in recent years.

“I have to admit I thought it was something that was extremely rare and almost done by accident,” she said. “I have learned a lot since then,” noting “There are so many ways employers can steal from their employees, whether it’s five minutes at a time or two weeks at a time.”

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Wage theft is stealing, hurting vulnerable workers (MN)

APR 27, 2017

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith has been shedding some light recently on wage theft in Minnesota. She has been urging the Legislature to pass legislation cracking down on wage theft this session. She took part in a Capitol rally in February and on Wednesday she joined legislators and Minnesota workers in a roundtable discussion.

According to Smith, wage theft occurs when employers do not pay workers what is owed to them for work performed. According to Smith, more than 39,000 Minnesota workers lose out on nearly $12 million in unpaid wages each year.

“Wage theft is stealing. It’s not how we do business in Minnesota,” Smith said Tuesday.

She says Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal would strengthen workers’ rights and crack down on non-abiding employers.

It proposes the following:

* Providing funding to enforce wage theft protections
* Defining the law by making it clear wage theft is wrong and illegal
* Give investigators the power to subpoena documents
* Require notice of information to be provided to employees at the start of employment, including rate of pay, the legal name of the employer and the employer’s address and phone number
* Creating stiffer penalties to prevent and crack down on wage theft
* Increasing the fines for willful and repeated violations of wage theft laws from $1,000 to $10,000 per violation
* Requiring employers pay employees every 16 days rather than every 31. Under current law, an employee could work 41 days without knowing whether they are going to be paid or not.

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Workers urge Legislature to stop wage theft

By Barb Kucera, Workday Minnesota
March 2, 2017

ST. PAUL – Workers who have lost thousands of dollars to wage theft descended on the state Capitol Thursday to urge lawmakers to beef up enforcement against employers who break the law.

With only about a week left for the Legislature to hear policy bills, anti-wage theft legislation has yet to have a hearing. The measure would give the state Department of Labor and Industry more enforcement tools and an increased budget to hire four additional wage and hour investigators to do proactive outreach across the state. It would empower workers with more information and impose stiffer penalties for violators.

An investigation by Workday Minnesota has found wage theft in Minnesota is larger and more widespread than most people realize – and the problem is growing. The Department of Labor and Industry estimates that 39,000 Minnesota workers suffer from wage theft each year, resulting in $11.9 million in wages owed, and that’s only what goes reported. Wage theft occurs when:

  • Employers refuse to pay their employees for work performed
  • Employers violate minimum wage, prevailing wage, and overtime protections
  • Employers make unlawful paycheck deductions
  • Employers coerce employees to work off the clock
  • Employers misclassify employees as an independent contractors to avoid paying workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance


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Minnesota unions, businesses unite against wage theft

February 22, 20179:39 AM CST

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Workers and communities suffer – and businesses face unfair competition – when companies cheat their employees through wage theft, Minnesota advocates told lawmakers at a mid-February hearing at the state capitol in St. Paul. They called on the legislature to pass measures to strengthen enforcement against this widespread problem.

“If you work for a living, you should get paid!” said Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, one of the authors of the anti-wage theft legislation. Several legislators, Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith and state Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Ken Peterson listened as workers described how their paychecks have been stolen by unscrupulous employers.

One of the most egregious current examples is Lakeville Motor Express, a trucking firm that allegedly changed its name and location to avoid paying thousands of dollars to its workers. Their union, Teamsters Local 120, is leading an effort to recoup what was lost.

“We are union strong and we are here to fight for our rights!” said Samuel Nunn, one of the 95 affected workers.

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New Responsible Contractor Law website launches (MN)

July 1, 2016

The website is “Responsible Minnesota”.

This website is a public service that will help stakeholders in public construction learn more about the Responsible Contractor Law (RCL), including a list of ineligible contractors based on a record of their past violations. Project owners, construction managers and general contractors should find this website is a good resource for double checking the eligibility status of their contractors.

(Click Here to Visit Website)

Coalition forms to combat wage theft

By Barb Kucera, Workday Minnesota
June 5, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS – Several Minnesota labor and community organizations are forming a coalition to combat the growing problem of wage theft that costs workers millions of dollars every year.

The coalition will hold its first meeting Tuesday, June 7, from 3 to 4 p.m. at the offices of CTUL, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha/Center of Workers United in Struggle, 2511 E. Franklin St., Minneapolis. Interested organizations are encouraged to send a representative.

Groups in the coalition include CTUL , a Minneapolis-based worker center; North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters; Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation; SEIU Healthcare Minnesota; SEIU State Council and the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service, which publishes Workday Minnesota.

Formation of the coalition was prompted by Workday’s recent series exposing the many forms of wage theft and discussing possible solutions.

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Wage theft watchdogs

Shortchanged: An in-depth look at wage theft

APRIL 19, 2016

The Fair Contracting Foundation of Minnesota is one of the Twin Cities’ leading organizations in the fight against wage theft.

The foundation is one of just a few dozen organizations across the country that focus on wage theft in the public sector construction industry, and the only one in Minnesota. Created in 2011, the nonprofit labor management committee employees three investigative attorneys who pursue complaints and cases of wage theft, from local contactors not paying prevailing wages to employees misclassified as independent contractors, in all levels of government across the state.

We spoke with Mike Wilde, the foundation’s executive director, to talk about FCF’s work and wage theft.

Q: Why was the foundation created?

Mike Wilde: The FCF was created as a program sponsored by the [Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council] to address some of the wage theft and unlawful practices in the publicly funded construction industry. The [council] had seen many laws go unenforced for a long time and they wanted to make sure all the contractors that were bidding on public work were adhering to the law. And so they created the Fair Contracting Foundation, the very first for the state.

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On the wage theft beat

Shortchanged: An in-depth look at wage theft

APRIL 19, 2016

If labor activists have turned up the volume on the discussion around wage theft, that’s a good thing, said John Aiken, director of the Apprenticeship and Labor Standards Division of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, the state agency that investigates worker complaints.

“What that is doing is raising the profile of this issue and, hopefully as one of the consequences of this, is driving people to this office to seek the assistance that they deserve,” Aiken said.

The department receives more than 20,000 inquiries each year. While some of the phone calls and emails concern child labor laws, the majority of complaints fall into the category of illegal activity commonly known as “wage theft,” including workers who never received a final paycheck from a previous employer, weren’t paid overtime or had illegal deductions taken out of their wages.

The increased attention being paid to wage theft has thrown a spotlight on the laws that are meant to protect workers, employers who seem to flout the rules and the resources that are available to go after lawbreakers. Both state agencies and their federal counterparts at the U.S. Department of Labor are noticing.
“As a person who does law enforcement, I would always like a bigger staff,” David King, district director for the federal Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division office in Minneapolis, said. “We could always find work for people to do. There’s lots of things that can be done to help protect workers. That’s just a reality.

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MnDOT contractor who shorted workers $242K is convicted of theft by swindle

$242,000 case involved co-owner of firm hired for MnDOT project.

By Paul Walsh Star Tribune
MARCH 8, 2016 – 8:09PM

A co-owner of a Twin Cities electrical contracting company has been convicted of cheating nearly two dozen employees out of a total of $242,000 in wages by paying them far less than the law required for their work on a state highway project in the north metro and elsewhere.

Laura Plzak, 54, of Loretto, was convicted in Hennepin County District Court of 16 felony counts of theft by swindle.

County Attorney Mike Freeman praised the bench verdict issued by Judge Tamara Garcia, calling it “a good decision, based on the enormous amount of evidence gathered by the FBI and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.”

Freeman said Monday that Plzak was “driven by greed, pure and simple, and it was the hardworking electricians who suffered.”

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