Minneapolis City Council has had three years to address poverty wages and pass $15/hour. Over 150 volunteers collected nearly 20,000 signatures to bring $15/hour to voters and raise wages for over 100,000 Minneapolis workers. Instead, City Hall is fighting energetically against our initiative, and in order to defend big business, are prepared to eliminate citizen-led initiatives generally. We need to stop them.
Last week, we won in court and Judge Susan Robiner ordered our $15 charter amendment onto the November ballot. In her decision, Judge Robiner agreed with $15 supporters that Minneapolis residents have a constitutional right to amend their charter, provided it does not conflict with state and federal law, and that this right includes a right to enact a minimum wage and address other subjects that advance the general welfare of Minneapolis workers and residents.
City Hall’s efforts to appeal the decision amount to using taxpayer money to radically weaken residents' long-standing constitutional right to decide what is fundamental enough to protect in the city's charter. By appealing to the Minnesota Supreme Court, council members are vacating responsibility for defending downtown business interests.
City Hall is hiding behind a faulty legal analysis that the Minneapolis Downtown Council and Chamber of Commerce are using to whip up unfounded fear, predicting a “chaotic future of ballot questions being forwarded by multiple interest groups.” In reality, the “interest group” they’re worried about is ordinary people, 68% of whom want to see $15/hr in the City’s Charter.
City Hall argues that if residents could amend their own charter, it would open the floodgates to ballot campaign after ballot campaign; that because Minneapolis lacks initiative and referendum power residents cannot amend their charter. Not only is the city’s argument full of holes, but we need only look across the river at legislation in St. Paul, where residents have initiative and referendum powers. St. Paul is not “flooded” with yearly ballot measures.
City Council’s only action to address the crisis of low-wages has been to pass a non-binding staff directive to look into a process for a minimum wage ordinance -- a year from now, and the number might not be anywhere near the $15 that workers have been fighting for, as big business interests like the National Restaurant Association and Chamber of Commerce pressure the council to water down movement on minimum wage.
Rather than putting the decision on $15/hour back into the hands of those most affected by poverty pay, City Council and Mayor Hodges prefer to let the Supreme Court decide. Instead of risking people’s right to alter, amend and add to the city charter, City Council should demand City Attorney Susan Segal drop the appeal.
City Council meets Wednesday morning. Join us at 9:30am to demand City Hall drop the reckless Supreme Court appeal and let Minneapolis residents decide on $15/hour.
Ginger Jentzen, Executive Director of 15 Now Minnesota