New Report Highlights Impacts of High Poverty Rates in Minnesota’s East African Communities

Cites Raising Wages to $15 at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, Largest Employer of Community, as Chance to Bring over $30 Million to Local Economy

Minneapolis, MN – A new report titled “Waiting for Takeoff,” released today by the Center for Popular Democracy, shined light on the disproportionately high poverty rate for the East African communities in Minnesota. It also highlighted the role the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) International Airport, as the largest employer of East African workers in the state, could take to address this crisis.

261248093-Waiting-for-Take-Off-1The report pointed out that over 63% of the Somali community are living below the poverty line, and the poverty rate for the Ethiopian community jumped 25% since 2000, a figure three times higher than comparable numbers for white Minnesotans.

The East African communities in Minnesotans continue to grow, and the report highlighted that there are at least 2,500 current badges holders at the MSP airport from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. According to reports, as many as 20% of Ethiopians in the workforce in our state work at the airport at any given time.

The report highlights how the current campaign for $15 at the airport would have a dramatic impact on the workers and the growing East African population in our state.  It comes shortly after Governor Dayton appointed Ibrahim Mohamed as a Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) Commissioner, the first East African and minimum wage airport worker appointed to the position, and voiced his support for raising wages for MSP airport workers.

“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.”

Small business owners from the East African community spoke in support of having more money in the community to help stimulate growth, which will help create more jobs and lead to a reduction in the poverty rate in the affected communities.

“Putting more money in the pockets of workers will strengthen our community, and will help to create an environment where small, local businesses can thrive,” said Russom Solomon, Board Member of West Bank Business Association & Owner of the Red Sea Restaurant. “Having tens of millions of dollars in the hands of Minnesota families would allow for more spending at local businesses, which creates more jobs and helps to build our economy.”

Airport worker Abdi Ali was at the event to talk about what raising wages would mean for his family and community.

“After 8 years of work I am still making $8 an hour with basically no benefits. There are hundreds of airport workers at minimum wage like me,” said Ali, a cart driver for Delta sub-contractor AirServ at MSP. “We need the Airport Commission to finally take action to stop the declining in workers wages, and help move our communities and our economy forward.We continue to demand $15 an hour and fair treatment on the job. When we win these changes, it will help the East African community to live better and to make sure that Minnesota has a strong future.”

Read the full report HERE.


The Center for Popular Democracy works to create equity, opportunity and a dynamic democracy in partnership with high-impact base-building organizations, organizing alliances, and progressive unions. CPD strengthens our collective capacity to envision and win an innovative pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda.

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