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Initiative to Raise Minimum Wage in ND Awaits Approval

More than 35 percent of minimum-wage earners are 40 or older. (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)
More than 35 percent of minimum-wage earners are 40 or older. (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)
March 7, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. — A proposal to raise North Dakota's minimum wage to $15 an hour could be heading to voters this November.

Supporters of the initiative are awaiting approval from Secretary of State Al Jaeger's office and expect to hear back by March 14. Currently, the state has set it at the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour.

Scott Nodland, who is leading the charge on the effort, said women in North Dakota will benefit most if wages go up.

"Generally, about 30 percent of North Dakota single women are living below the poverty line. And 40 percent of single women with children are living below the poverty line,” Nodland said. “And so this boost to the minimum wage will most impact women."

Nodland said the profile of minimum-wage earners as teenagers working summer jobs is inaccurate. He said the average age of a minimum-wage earner is 35, nearly 90 percent are not teens, and more than than 35 percent are 40 or older.

The initiative would increase wages to $15 an hour over the next three years. Opponents say increasing wages will force businesses to raise prices.

But Nodland noted that raising prices isn't the only option if wages go up. He said business owners could decrease the amount of profits going into their pockets. Nodland said the minimum wage discussion usually focuses on the impact it will have on business.

"Is this good for business or not? And the answer is, the framework is wrong,” he said. “We have to ask the question, 'Is this good for North Dakotans or not?' And the answer is yes, generally. It's a positive thing. We're lifting up the people that we left behind."

If the initiative is approved, it will need more than 13,400 signatures by July 8 to qualify for the ballot this year.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND