Advocates of a $15 minimum wage in Minneapolis said the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision striking the issue from the November ballot will not slow their efforts – and they vowed to press for action by city officials.
Using an expedited process, the state’s highest court ruled Wednesday that Minnesota Statutes and the Minneapolis City Charter “do not authorize the proposed charter amendment.” Chief Justice Lorie Gildea said the ruling was issued quickly “not to impair the orderly election process” and that a detailed opinion from the court would follow.
Just last week, Hennepin County Judge Susan Robiner ordered the city to put the $15 minimum wage charter amendment on the November 2016 ballot. She ruled the City Council’s action to block the amendment lacked basis in Minnesota law.
The Chamber of Commerce pressured the city to appeal and filed an amicus brief on behalf of business groups.
"We are disappointed in the Supreme Court's ruling today,” said Laura Huizar, staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project, a national research and advocacy organization that helped lead the legal fight. “We believe that it goes against decades of precedent and practice in the State of Minnesota and deprives Minneapolis residents of their constitutional right to vote on whether to approve a $15 minimum wage and protect that wage in the city's charter."
Members of the Minneapolis $15 campaign said the court ruling will not slow their efforts to improve the lives of the more than 100,000 Minneapolis workers – many of them women and people of color – who would benefit from an increase.
“This was never about a charter amendment versus an ordinance,” said Mike Griffin, field director of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. “This is about people’s lives in a city with the worst racial disparities in the country. If we can’t raise wages through a charter amendment, we’ll raise them through an ordinance.”
Noted Anthony Newby, NOC’s executive director, “Many council members have said repeatedly they would prefer to address this issue via an ordinance instead of a charter amendment. We plan to hold them to their word.”
NOC, 15 Now Minnesota and CTUL, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha/Center of Workers United in Struggle, said they will hold a rally on Monday, Sept. 12, to launch the next phase of the campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 in Minneapolis.
A recent poll showed that 68 percent of Minneapolis voters would have voted yes on the charter amendment had it gone to the ballot.
“City Council can no longer hide behind procedural arguments to defend big business,” said Ginger Jentzen, executive director of 15 Now Minnesota. “City Hall can show support for $15 an hour by passing our proposal for $15 an hour as an ordinance.”
The SEIU Minnesota State Council, a union representing 8,000 people living or working in Minneapolis, released a statement that said, in part, "We are committed to working with those leading this fight to make certain this is the beginning, not end, of the fight for a more equal and just Minneapolis. We are firmly in support of elected officials in the city taking a stand to address the crisis of racial and economic inequality that is holding Minneapolis back, and to pass an ordinance that lifts wages to $15, something we would like to see in the region and throughout the entire state of Minnesota."