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Workers spoke at a news conference following the City Council vote.

Workers win historic $15 wage in Minneapolis

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, July 28, 2017

By Barb Kucera, editor, www.workdayminnesota.org

MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis firmly established itself as a leader in supporting working families and combating poverty and racism with the City Council’s vote June 30 to approve a citywide minimum wage of $15 per hour.

The ordinance was the product of years of strikes, protests and organizing by a wide coalition of low-wage workers, unions and community groups.

“This is movement work,” Minneapolis City Council vice president Elizabeth Glidden said. “And we [the City Council] are one tiny piece of it.”

Workers celebrated in the council chambers and at a news conference after the meeting.

“They called us crazy,” said Guillermo Perez, a fast food employee and member of the Minneapolis-based worker center CTUL. “They told us we were dreaming. Look at us now.”

Perez was among the fast food workers who conducted the first strike in Minneapolis in their industry in 2014. He and other low-wage workers have been a driving force behind the council’s action to implement the $15 wage and to adopt a citywide ordinance for earned sick and safe time that took effect July 1.

Minneapolis is the first city in the Midwest to win the $15 minimum wage.

The national #FightFor15 movement, sparked by striking fast food workers in New York City in 2012, led to municipal minimum wage measures in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., and statewide increases in Washington, California and New York state.

The Minneapolis City Council vote was 11-1 in support, with only Council Member Blong Yang in opposition, citing concern about the effect “on small business owners and the working poor.”

The minimum wage will increase to $15 an hour according to two schedules.
For businesses employing more than 100 workers, the wages will be set to increase over five years, with the largest raises in the first year.

For businesses with fewer than 100 employees, the wage will be implemented over seven years. All workers will get to a $15 minimum wage by 2024.

According to an economic impact study released by the city last year, the raise will lift 71,000 workers above the poverty line, including 54 percent of Latino workers, 42 percent of black workers and 29 percent of single mothers.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, who participated in the council meeting, said, “for 71,000 workers, this is a new day and a new opportunity.”
Council members vowed to work with small businesses to make the policy a success.

Mary Breen, co-owner of Perennial Cycle, a small bike shop in Uptown, said the new $15 minimum wage does not need to have an adverse effect.

“We’ve been in business for 25 years and understand how difficult it is to remain viable,” she said at the news conference following the vote. “We’ve had to make adjustments and changes to how we run our business, but employee wages have to be a top priority. That’s why we support the $15 minimum wage. Every person who puts in a day’s work deserves a living wage.”

‘One Fair Wage’

One contentious issue in the debate over the $15 minimum wage was whether or not the proposed minimum should apply to tipped workers.

The community coalition which pushed for the $15 minimum wage emphatically insisted that the new wage standard should apply to all workers, adopting the slogan, “One Fair Wage.”

The issue came to a head June 22 during the final public hearing before the City Council vote.

Some tipped employees, organized by the restaurant industry, spoke in favor of exempting tipped employees from the proposed $15 minimum wage.

But the majority of the people testifying urged support for “One Fair Wage.”

“A $15 per hour base wage plus tips is a living wage, and anything less than that leaves tipped workers behind” said Alex Doebler, a bartender at Buca di Beppo in downtown Minneapolis. “Raising the wage for servers has never caused the apocalyptic outcomes the restaurant lobby claims, and doesn’t end tipping. ‘One Fair Wage’ is the right path for Minneapolis.”

“I work at Pizza Luce in the back of the house and we need to raise the minimum wage to $15 and still be able to get tips as well,” said Donell Martin, a member of CTUL, the Center for Workers United in Struggle. “We cannot survive on anything less than that. All of my money goes to rent and bills. There are many times… I don’t have enough money for groceries after my basic, basic needs are met. This is no way for us to be living in 2017, in one of the most progressive cities in the country.”

Low-wage workers involved in Working America, a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, celebrated the win at a July 19 gathering. “I went to rallies and marches and testified at the City Council,” said Shawn Anderson, a cashier at Family Dollar, who earns $10 per hour. If she earned $15, she said, “I’d be able to pay my rent on time.”

This story also includes Labor Review reporting.

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