Workers Show $15/hr is Legal and Possible...


On the heels of recent national victories for a $15 minimum wage across the country and local worker-led actions demanding $15 and stronger workers' rights, Minneapolis workers will deliver 20,000 signatures in support of a $15 minimum wage to City Hall on June 29th -- nearly three times the number required to put the question on the ballot -- collected over just 9 weeks.

Workers organizing with Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), and 15 Now Minnesota will present the signatures flanked by supportive labor, faith and community members, after a rally led by fast food workers at a south Minneapolis McDonald's. Workers have been at the forefront of the growing movement for a $15 minimum wage in Minneapolis. Over the past several years, low-wage workers in Minneapolis and across the country have demanded a $15 minimum wage. Workers have gone on strike, held rallies, and marched on City Hall.

Recently, City Hall has indicated they plan to disenfranchise voters by keeping $15 off the ballot, saying the charter amendment in Minneapolis is illegal. However, on Monday June 27th, national and local legal experts released a memo detailing the legal basis for raising the minimum wage to $15 in Minneapolis by charter amendment. Combined with worker-led actions and the rapid signature campaign, this is a huge step for the worker-led coalition brought together by 15 Now, CTUL, NOC, labor, faith and community groups backing the $15 minimum wage ballot initiative.

"Minneapolis has the opportunity to tackle years of declining wages by joining the growing number of cities and states that have adopted a $15 minimum wage.  Legal analysis shows that Minneapolis residents have a right to place a $15 minimum wage on November's ballot and that, if challenged, the courts would uphold such a measure,” said Laura Huizar, staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project.

The memo explains that Minneapolis has the power to enact a local minimum wage, and that residents of charter cities like Minneapolis can add charter amendments through petition as long as there are no state or local laws that preclude the amendment. Indeed, the city is legally required to put a proposed charter amendment that meets signature requirements on the ballot as long as it does not conflict with state or local law. Neither state nor local law limits charter amendments so as to preclude a charter amendment establishing a local 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 attorney and charter law expert. 

Marty and Huizar noted that the majority of courts around the country that have considered whether a city can enact a local minimum wage have upheld those local laws unless they have been explicitly or impliedly preempted by state law. Minnesota law does not preclude a local minimum wage.

Workers who have been organizing for a $15 minimum wage applauded the release of the legal memo as another tool and step toward a living wage for all Minneapolis workers. 

In the coming months, Big Business trade groups, the Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant association, McDonalds, and more will throw millions of dollars into Minneapolis to defeat our initiative, but first they'll work to disenfranchise voters and keep $15 off the ballot. Workers and supporters are willing to do whatever it takes to win $15 in Minneapolis. It will take a movement of workers demonstrating in the streets, at our workplaces, and rallying at City Hall to say let voters decide! We’re putting $15/hour back into the hands of the working people of Minneapolis.

Read a summary of the legal memo here, and a full version here