We must raise the minimum wage and address unemployment rate disparities in our state.
Minnesota has very low unemployment overall, but there are populations and areas where we must do better. We have a hiring gap in the state; according to MN DEED (2016), unemployment rate disparities between white and minority workers continue to exist in Minnesota, as every non-white population has a higher unemployment rate than that of white individuals. The overall statewide unemployment rate in 2016 was 4.1 percent, which was identical to the rate for white Minnesotans. At 12.4 percent, African Americans had the highest unemployment rate in the metro area. Unemployment rates are also significantly higher for American Indians and workers of two or more races.
As a member of the Senate Jobs and Transportation Committees, I worked to make sure that minorities and underrepresented classes receive employment opportunities, training, and more. My passion is for providing jobs in the construction industry, where pay and benefits are high, the work is rewarding, and companies are incentivized to find minority and female workers by the federal and state governments that fund their projects. I’ve worked with the MN Department of Transportation to develop training for Native American and minority workers to perform specialty construction work that is needed on nearly every road and bridge project. After my term ended, I continued to work in that area, and am proud to have just received two grants to continue that work: one that will bring more underrepresented minorities to the construction industry and one that allows me to continue my work as a teacher and mentor to new business owners working to become successful.
Throughout my company’s almost 30-year history, we have worked with union and non-union contractors, and have paid the high minimum wages required on federally funded projects. As a business owner, I have always provided good wages that exceed a proposed $15 statewide minimum wage (even for student workers). I support strong wages for all workers and the proposed $15 statewide minimum wage.
As a member of the Senate Transportation, Jobs and Capital Investment (Bonding) committees, I had the great opportunity to work through all three areas to find opportunities for job creation and local investment. Every dollar the state spends on bonding goes straight to the local businesses, employees, gas stations, material suppliers, and manufacturers. Every dollar the state spends on bonding goes to improve our housing, water, education, transportation, and community infrastructure.
The three committees I served on provided a perfect opportunity to use my skills as a teacher, engineer, small business owner, and workforce developer to create opportunities throughout the state, and I am so grateful for it.
Prepared and paid for by Campaign of Ann Johnson Stewart, PO Box 46505, Plymouth, MN 55446