Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday publicly urged the commission that runs the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to quickly adopt a $10 minimum wage.
Dayton, who appoints members of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, issued his call in remarks at the Muslim American Society's Capitol lobby day.
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If the higher wage was implemented immediately it would mean airport workers would earn $2 more per hour than Minnesota's current minimum wage. The state minimum rises to $9 in August and $9.50 a year later.
Dayton said for every dollar, it means $2,000 per year in income for a full-time worker. He applauded the work of people who tidy planes, clean restrooms, assist travelers and drive electric carts at the airport in making his appeal.
"They've earned it, they deserve it, the airline industry can afford it," Dayton said. "One of the things about raising the minimum wage at the airport is there's not going to be a threat to move it to South Dakota, China or anywhere else. It's our airport. It's a public entity, a public facility and it ought to better reflect our values as a citizenry."
The Democratic governor said he was moved by the story of an airport worker who was raising five kids on a minimum-wage job. Dayton recently appointed that worker, Ibrahim Mohamed, to the commission.
Dayton's suggested $10-per-hour level is beneath the $15 minimum wage that some groups advocating for airport workers have sought. "If they want to go higher, within reason, I have no problem with that," Dayton said of the commission, with whom he'll deliver a formal proposal soon.
A bill introduced last month in the Minnesota House would bar local governments, including the airports commission, from deviating from the state minimum wage. It has yet to get a hearing.
Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake, said allowing different minimum wages across municipalities will create an uneven playing field in hiring and cause logistical headaches for employers with multiple locations.
"The minimum wage should be the minimum wage," he said.