Rep. Jason Metsa Lives on Minimum Wage for A Week

For minimum-wage earners in Minnesota, ‘a constant juggling act’

By Michael Moore, St. Paul Union Advocate

April 12, 2013

The state legislator spending a week on minimum wage met Thursday with three Minnesotans for whom the minimum-wage challenge is an everyday reality. Four days into his five-day walk in the shoes of the state’s lowest-paid workers, Rep. Jason Metsa listened as three minimum-wage earners related the experiences Metsa wouldn’t have during his five-day experiment.

Things like health care, housing costs and the unpredictable nature of most low-wage jobs – those are the challenges Avita Samuels, Janiece Watts and Robert Schiff shared with Metsa, the DFLer from Virginia, Minn., who accepted Working America’s challenge to live a week on Minnesota’s minimum wage of $7.25.   A bill in the Minnesota House would boost that minimum wage to $9.95 per hour. Seeing it become law, Samuels said, would mean more than a bigger paycheck; it would mean respect for the work she does.

“I take pride in my job. I want to do the best I can,” the 23-year-old retail worker told Metsa. “I don’t want to have to ask for a higher minimum wage, but I have to.”

40-hour week no guarantee

Metsa’s minimum-wage budget of $290 assumes a 40-hour workweek, but that’s rarely a reality for retail workers like Samuels and Watts.

Samuels, a student at the University of Minnesota, juggles work with school. Watts, who works in a grocery store, found herself in a similar situation until she graduated last year.

Now she juggles work with trying to find another job. “Every so often I pick up some extra hours, but most of the time I work 24 hours per week,” the 24-year-old said.


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