Minneapolis Voters Could Decide On Gradually Raising Minimum Wage To $15

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If the legal questions can be resolved, Minneapolis is likely to hold a referendum this November on gradually raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Petitions to put the proposal on the ballot were turned in last week and there appears to be more than enough signatures.

Armed with 20,000 signatures and deafening drums, supporters of a $15 minimum wage rallied in Minneapolis. “I believe that we will win” chanted members of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) as Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl hauled away the petitions. They will be locked away until the Minneapolis Charter Commission meets on July 13. After that, about a dozen city clerk office workers will check the signatures against the Secretary of State’s list of voters. Having enough signatures will likely not be an issue. The campaign turned in nearly three times the needed 6,869 verified signatures to qualify.

The issue may be if the city charter can be used to raise the minimum wage. Anticipating a court challenge, organizers requested a legal opinion from the National Employment Law Project, a group that advocates for the rights of low-wage workers. The opinion said Minnesota and Minneapolis law allows a charter amendment to raise the minimum wage.

“The only time a City can veto a proposed charter amendment is when it blatantly violates the constitution or state law. Fifteen Now’s proposed charter amendment does neither, so the City must place it on the next ballot,” said Karen Marty, a Minnesota lawyer, former city attorney and charter law expert.

Republicans and businesses are attempting to change Minnesota law to prevent local governments from making such laws. That will likely not happen before this November’s election. Governor Mark Dayton recently said that a “preemption” law would not be part of any special session this year because the issue needs more study than it can get in a one-day special session.

Gradual Increase

Video at top: Rally as petitions are turned in at Minneapolis city hall
Video at below: City Clerk discusses both petition drives

If Minneapolis voters approve the charter amendment, wages would not go up to $15 immediately and they would not go up at the same rate for all workers. Businesses with 500 or more employees would pay at least $10 per hour starting in August 2017. The minimum wage would go up each year until it reached $15 in 2020. Smaller businesses would get more time, not hitting the $15 per hour mark until August 2022.

One Of Two Charter Amendments For Minneapolis Voters

There will likely be another charter amendment on the Minneapolis ballot this fall. A petition drive for an amendment requiring police officers to carry professional liability insurance is also likely to have enough signatures. Committee for Professional Policing organizer Michelle Gross says the initial petition drive came up 509 signatures short “because they disallowed anybody who’s address was different than it was on the voting rolls.” She says the group already has enough additional signatures and will turn them in by the July 15 deadline.

The measure is an attempt to make police officers accountable for inappropriate or illegal use of force. Between 2011 and 2014, the city of Minneapolis paid out more than $9.3 million from police misconduct lawsuits, according to an analysis by Minnesota Public Radio.

The charter amendment would make the liability insurance a condition of employment in Minneapolis. The city cover the cost of basic insurance, but any premium increases due to misconduct would be the officer’s responsibility.

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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