Judge Says Minneapolis Can Vote On $15 Minimum Wage
Update: The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed to hear the City of Minneapolis' appeal of the ruling. Arguments are set to be given on Tuesday, August 30.
Minneapolitans will have the chance to vote on a higher minimum in the city after a Hennepin County judge overturned the actions of the City Council.
Judge Susan Robiner said that councilmembers followed a “narrow interpretation” of the law when they blocked a charter amendment earlier this month that would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. (The full ruling can be viewed here).
Councilmembers blocked the initiative earlier on the advice of city attorney Susan Segal, who argued that the vote was a referendum—something the Minneapolis doesn’t permit at this time. Segal argued that the only changes to the charter were structures of government and procedure, but Robiner wrote that such a view was “fraught with problems.”
Supporters of a higher minimum wage, including Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, 15 Now Minnesota and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha cheered the ruling on social media. Alondra Cano, one of only two city councilmembers who supported the initiative going on the ballot also tweeted out her support: “$15 ballot question approved by Court 2day! Thx @15NowMN @mnnoc @CTUL_TC @MPIRG 4 ur hard work proud 2 stand with U!”
Should the amendment pass, it would raise Minneapolis’ minimum wage in steps. Large employers would have until 2020 to reach $15 per hour. Small employers would have until 2022.
In a joint statement, Steve Cramer, president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, and John Stanoch, interim CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, urged the city to appeal the ruling, writing that it creates a “chaotic future” where any group could put an issue to a vote under the auspices of the health and welfare of the city.
“The ruling creates an expansive and dangerous precedent and opens the doors to initiative and referendum-style governance in our City, which is plainly not provided for by the Minneapolis Charter,” they said.
City officials, for their part, said they were still planning next steps following the ruling.
“We respectfully disagree with the ruling on the minimum wage proposal,” Segal said in emailed remarks. “We are conferring with City leadership to determine the City’s response.”
But the city doesn’t have much time. Ballots for November are finalized on August 26.