AFL-CIO leaders on Tuesday decried what they say is Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson’s opposition to increasing Minnesota’s minimum wage.

Legislation passed last session that increased the minimum wage from $6.15 per hour to $8 for large employers. By 2016 it will reach $9.50. Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner, has said he would not repeal the current minimum wage increases, but would not support inflationary increases beyond that, arguing that raising the wage could harm small businesses. It’s a claim history has proven is untrue, said AFL-CIO president Shar Knutson (pictured at podium) said at a news conference.

“When we the minimum wage has increased before, the world didn’t stop and businesses kept on running, and they didn’t lose many people because you have to have a certain workforce,” Knutson said. “You can say that, but that doesn’t mean it’s what’s going to happen.”

Johnson is challenging DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. Dayton’s campaign, along with Unions and other Democratic-leaning groups have long bashed Johnson for his opposition to the minimum wage increase.

The AFL-CIO, a state labor federation made up of more than 1,000 affiliate unions representing more than 300,000 members, is latest to follow suit.

Darcy Landau, a wheelchair agent for Delta passengers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, who serves senior citizens and people with disabilities, said he received his first raise in more than five years in August after the legislation passed.

“Despite Delta’s record profits of over $2.7 billion last year, and the fact that our CEO saw his pay go up over 50 percent to over $14 million per year, workers like me who are subcontracted by Delta still only make $8 per hour,” said Landau (pictured at middle.) “It’s a disgrace that there are hundreds of workers at the airport who make miserable wages with no chance of affordable healthcare with no advancement in sight.”

“Does Mr. Johnson realize the pain he would cause people like me and workers all across the state?” he said. “Too many families are struggling, working two or three jobs and too many people are barely able to survive even though they work for corporations with record profits. Does Mr. Johnson think this is fair? Does he have any clue what it’s like to work for minimum wage?”

In a response, Johnson campaign spokesman Jeff Bakken said the attacks are evidence of union loyalties toward Dayton.

"Mark Dayton's incompetence and paybacks to his union boss campaign contributors are hurting middle-class Minnesotans.” He said in a statement. “Under Dayton, our state is dead last in private sector job growth in the Midwest and 41st worst in the nation. With this record, it's no wonder that the rich special interest groups who own Dayton are on the attack. Jeff Johnson will not cut the minimum wage, and with Jeff leading our state, Minnesota will not be dead last in the Midwest in private sector job growth."