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Kurt Daudt: Businesses should ‘move out’ of cities that have upped minimum wage, paid leave

Don't like paying your workers a living wage? Kurt Daudt has the solution for you.

Don't like paying your workers a living wage? Kurt Daudt has the solution for you. Associated Press

If you’re one of the 219,000 or so Minnesotans who work for minimum wage, the state probably just raised your pay to $9.86 an hour -- that is, if you’re working for a business with 50 or more employees. That means you’re going to be making less than $21,000 a year, if you’re not working several jobs at once.

There is a place in Minnesota where that’s not true: large businesses in Minneapolis have to pay you at least $11.25 an hour. Minneapolis and St. Paul have been gradually working their way toward a $15 an hour minimum wage, which some progressives argue would allow people to actually spend money, contribute more to the economy, and… you know… live. Without food stamps, even.

Not everybody’s thrilled by the concept. Conservatives have been arguing all along that businesses are going to founder and their owners will jump ship if they’re suddenly forced to pay their employees enough to get by. Jobs will disappear, they argue -- no one will want to hire anyone if it costs that much to do it. And don’t even get them started on paid leave.

At Friday’s TwinWest Chamber of Commerce event, Minnesota House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, a Republican from Crown, suggested that if businesses don’t like these newfangled progressive policies, there’s something they can and should do about it: Take their ball and go home.

“I’ll be really stark,” he said. “If there’s a city that is doing something that makes it difficult for you to do business, send a message to them with your pocketbook. Do not do business in that city. Do not place your business in that city. Move out of those cities.”

Lest someone think he was kidding about that, he concluded, “And I am not kidding about that.”

Daudt didn’t respond to interview requests, but plenty have responded to his comments on Twitter -- most of them asking why he was encouraging businesses to flee the Minnesotan cities he’s supposed to be representing.

“I think it’s an outrageous thing to say,” Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler says. Then again, he adds, it’s not as outrageous as far as political comments go these days. He was in the room when Daudt made the remarks, and he says the business leaders present didn’t seem to be paying much attention.

Winkler helped carry Minnesota’s new $9.86-per-hour minimum wage, and he’s heard all the same complaints -- that it would “hurt businesses,” “drive up costs,” “force people to move.”

“None of those things are true,” he says. “Businesses have to adapt to changing costs on a daily basis.” Adapting to new wage requirements, he says, is just one more thing.

Not to mention, there may be fewer and fewer places to flee as time goes on. United States House Democrats are planning on introducing legislation (today, actually) aimed at gradually raising the federal minimum wage to -- you guessed it -- $15, all by 2024. New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle have already made the jump to a $15 minimum, and the state of California is on track to hit that mark in the next few years.