Minneapolis firmly established itself as a leader in supporting working families and combatting poverty and racism with the City Council’s action Friday to approve a citywide minimum wage of $15 an hour.
The ordinance was the product of years of strikes, protests and organizing by a wide coalition of low-wage workers, unions and community groups.
“This is movement work,” Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden said. “And we [the City Council] are one tiny piece of it.”
Workers celebrated in the council chambers and at a news conference after the meeting.
“They called us crazy,” said Guillermo Perez, a fast food employee and member of the Minneapolis-based worker center CTUL. “They told us we were dreaming. Look at us now.”
Perez was among the fast food workers who conducted the first strike in Minneapolis in their industry in 2014. He and other low-wage workers have been a driving force behind the council’s action to implement the $15 wage and to adopt a citywide ordinance for earned sick and safe time that takes effect Saturday, July 1.
Minneapolis is the first city in the Midwest to win the $15 minimum wage. The national #FightFor15 movement, sparked by striking fast food workers in New York City in 2012, led to municipal minimum wage measures in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., and statewide increases in Washington, California and New York state.
The City Council vote was 11-1 in support, with only Council Member Blong Yang in opposition, citing concern about the effect “on small business owners and the working poor.”
The minimum wage will increase to $15 an hour along two schedules. For businesses employing more than 100 workers, the wages will be set to increase over five years, with the largest raises in the first year. For businesses with fewer than 100 employees, the wage will be implemented over seven years. All workers will get to a $15 minimum wage by 2024.
According to an economic impact study released by the city last year, the raise will lift 71,000 workers above the poverty line, including 54 percent of Latino workers, 42 percent of black workers and 29 percent of single mothers.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, who participated in the council meeting, said, “For 71,000 workers, this is a new day and a new opportunity.”
Council members vowed to work with small businesses to make the policy a success. Mary Breen, co-owner of Perennial Cycle, a small bike shop in Uptown, said it does not have to have an adverse effect.
“We’ve been in business for 25 years and understand how difficult it is to remain viable,” she said at the news conference following the vote. “We’ve had to make adjustments and changes to how we run our business, but employee wages have to be a top priority. That’s why we support the $15 minimum wage. Every person who puts in a day’s work deserves a living wage.”