Minnesota’s Supreme Court dealt a blow Wednesday to activists trying to raise the minimum wage and reduce police misconduct in Minneapolis. The court ruled two petition-driven charter amendments will not be on the general election ballot. Activists on both issues can’t appeal the rulings; however, they plan to keep fighting for change in ways that doesn’t involve changing Minneapolis’ city charter.
The court did not immediately issue opinions with its orders, so the reasoning the court used to decide the case is not known. However, the City of Minneapolis had argued the proposal to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 was not a proper subject for a charter amendment. It had also argued that the proposal to require police to carry liability insurance as a deterrent to officer misbehavior was in conflict with state law.
“While this is a setback today, low-wage workers have really taken on city hall and $15 an hour is a demand that is here to stay,” said Ginger Jentzen, Executive Director of 15Now. “Clearly, low-wage workers have changed the political landscape in our city and we have the majority of Minneapolis supporting a $15 an hour wage.”
Jentzen’s group and others such as Neighborhoods Organizing for Change and CTUL collected many thousands of signatures to put the issue on the ballot. A poll the groups commissioned showed that 68% of likely Minneapolis voters supported raising the wage to $15 an hour.
Pressure to pass a minimum wage ordinance
“I think this means we have a real mandate to move forward on 15,” said Jentzen, promising her group would keep the pressure on the Minneapolis City Council to pass a minimum wage ordinance by the end of 2016.
To do that, Jentzen says 15Now will launch “the next phase of our campaign” on September 12 to bring grassroots pressure on the council. The group has already drafted a proposed ordinance for the council. The council is in the process of exploring a minimum wage ordinance. Jentzen says what the council is doing is “general and non-binding” and might not hit $15 an hour.
“We want to make sure that city hall is very clear that we will be there again and again and again; low-wage workers will continue to lead these demonstrations at city hall to make sure that our demands for a $15 minimum wage results in a real policy, real strong $15 minimum wage in Minneapolis.”
Fight against police misconduct to try other tactics
The group that wants to curb police misconduct also plans to fight on, but takes issue with the court’s ruling. “The decision appears to be a political decision and not a legal one,” said Michelle Gross, with the Committee for Professional Policing (CfPP). “It just would appear that given the ruling against both our amendment and the 15Now amendment that the state is saying that ‘you little citizens, you go away. You have no right trying to intervene in your government in any way.’”
“We are not going to allow police brutality to go on unchecked in our community. We’re not going to allow taxpayers to keep paying for it,” said Gross. Minneapolis has spent $21 million since 2003 to settle police misconduct cases.
Gross says the charter amendment was only one part of her group’s strategy to make police accountable. “There are other ways to do it.” One way is a complaint the CfPP filed several weeks ago with the Minnesota State Auditor, asking for an investigation into the millions Minneapolis has paid out to settle police misconduct suits. The CfPP is still pursuing that complaint and is discussing other avenues to curb police misconduct.