Supporters Rejoice As Judge Orders Minneapolis Minimum Wage Issue On Ballot

It appears Minneapolis voters will decide whether the city should have a $15 an hour minimum wage. A Hennepin County District Court judge today ordered the city to put a minimum wage charter amendment on the ballot despite city council opposition.

Earlier this month the Minneapolis City Council voted not to put the minimum wage issue on the ballot after the city attorney said it was not a proper subject for a charter amendment.

Judge Susan Robiner ruled the there is no Minnesota case law that supports the City’s claim that general welfare legislation may only be proposed through initiative and referendum.

Judge Robiner wrote:

To conclude, the City cannot avoid certain realities that defeat its position:
• No Minnesota case law supports the City’s claim that general welfare legislation
may only be proposed through initiative and referendum;
• No Minnesota case law supports the City’s claim that “all local municipal
functions” means only “the form, structure, and functioning of the municipal
government”;
• Minnesota cases have allowed district courts to enjoin elections only where the
proposed charter amendment was unconstitutional or conflicted with state law
neither of which are even argued by the City; and,
• For a Court to enjoin a ballot initiative based on its content when that proposal has
garnered the proper number of signatures and proceeded properly could reasonably be seen as overreaching its specific role under Minn. Stat. § 204B.44 and its general role in a government that respects separation of powers.

Supporters thrilled by ruling, preparing for campaign.

Backers of the amendment were “extremely thrilled” by the ruling said Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) Field Director Mike Griffin. “This is a major, a major victory for workers who have been fighting for higher wages in Minneapolis for years. We know that Minneapolis has one of the biggest racial (income) gaps in the entire nation. And allowing this to be on the ballot, giving people the right to vote on raising the wage is a victory for democracy.”

Voter turnout will be key to passing the minimum wage amendment. As a start, NOC plans to go back to the 20,000 people who signed petitions and urge them to vote in this November’s election. But Griffin expects strong support. He points to a recent poll NOC commissioned that shows 68% of registered likely voters in Minneapolis support the amendment.

A little more than two months remain until election day, which is a short time table for a ballot issue. “We’re going to run the strongest grass roots campaign in Minneapolis that you’ve ever seen,” says Griffin who hopes to get tens of thousands of activists involved in knocking on doors and making phone calls.

If passed, the amendment says all workers in Minneapolis would be paid at least $10 an hour starting in August of 2017. That minimum wage would gradually rise. In businesses with more than 500 workers would see a minimum wage of $15 an hour by 2020. Businesses with less than 500 workers would be required to pay a $15 an hour wage by 2022.

The deadline for setting the November general election ballot is August 26, giving the city very little time if it decides to challenge the ruling.

Full ruling

Minimum Wage Charter Ruling

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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