Report: East African workers make poverty wages in Minnesota

A new report released by the Center for Popular Democracy says there's a disproportionately high poverty rate for the East African communities in Minnesota, and that Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the largest employer of those workers in the state, can help.

According to the report, 63 percent of Somalis in the state are living below the poverty line, and the poverty rate for the Ethiopian community jumped 25 percent since 2000.

The Center for Popular Democracy contends $15 hourly wages at the airport "would have a dramatic impact on the workers and the growing East African population in our state."

This push comes on the heels of Gov. Mark Dayton's effort to raise minimum wage in the state.

"Raising wages to the $15 range at the airport would mean over $30 million in additional wages for East African workers, and would infuse even more than that into our local economy via local spending and taxes," said report author Eden Yosief, a Social Justice Research Fellow with Center for Popular Democracy. "This would start to lift families out of poverty, and would stimulate further job growth by circulating money into our state that right now is going to things like sky-high CEO pay."

Gov. Dayton recently appointed Ibrahim Mohamed as a Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) Commissioner, the first East African and minimum wage airport worker to hold the position. The report said there are about 2,500 current badge-holders at the airport from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Full report: 'Waiting for Take-Off'

Metropolitan Airports Commission response

"The Metropolitan Airports Commission has long had a strong relationship with labor and takes steps to ensure vendors providing services to the Commission compensate their employees fairly for that work. At issue are employees who work for private businesses under contract to airlines. In December the Commission board passed a policy requiring those businesses to provide paid leave to employees and to protect employees should an airline change service vendors. The MAC board will be discussing wage issues over the next couple of months."
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