After years of low-wage workers organizing for a $15 minimum wage and a high energy rally in late June where low-wage workers presented nearly 20,000 signatures at City Hall, the City Clerk’s office today reported to the City Council that the $15 minimum wage campaign has far surpassed the threshold of signatures required to qualify for the 2016 November ballot in Minneapolis.
"It almost brings me to tears. We’ve worked hard as a team for this,” said Steven Suffridge, a McDonald’s employee organizing with CTUL. “Folks are here no matter what the bosses tell them. We’ve already won paid sick leave and we will win $15.”
"Just a few years ago, I was working two minimum wage jobs while trying to get through college and take care of my daughter," said Rod Adams, economic justice organizer for Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. "I wasn't getting any sleep. My grades suffered. My relationship with my daughter suffered. And I still wasn't making any money. Low wages are a major cause of our racial and economic inequality. Workers have been organizing for years demanding a living wage, marching, going on strike, and collecting petition signatures. We're excited to take this to the ballot to let voters decide."
A Feldman Group poll in the fall of 2015 showed 82% of likely voters support a phased-in $15 minimum wage similar to the proposal put forward by Vote for 15 MN, but despite widespread support and a clear legal basis, some council members hostile to raising poverty wages in Minneapolis have said they are prepared to use a legal maneuver to block voters from deciding the issue.
Recently, national and local legal experts released a memo detailing the legal basis for raising the minimum wage to $15 in Minneapolis by charter amendment. Groups organizing to win $15 an hour say they’re prepared to take legal action if City Hall bows to the pressure of big business and moves to disenfranchise the 20,000 Minneapolis residents who signed petitions supporting the wage increase.
"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.
However, the City Attorney has indicated to the media that she may advise against the legality of amending the city charter to set a minimum wage, providing political cover for the big-business-friendly council majority.
“We’re mobilizing to ensure City Hall doesn’t disenfranchise Minneapolis voters who have, for years now, been demanding action on $15,” said Ginger Jentzen, Executive Director of 15 Now Minnesota, the organization that led the fight to win $15/hour in Seattle. “Without any concrete alternative from City Council that addresses poverty wages or racial income inequality, blocking this from the ballot is about protecting the profits of big business interests in this city. It’s shameful how they’re playing political hide-and-seek behind these bogus legal objections.”
More than 35 cities across the country have passed municipal minimum wages since the Fight for 15 began in 2012. Many of these wage increases have been decided by voters at the ballot box.
Workers organizing with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), 15 Now Minnesota, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP, Socialist Alternative, the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group and others say they’ll do whatever it takes to get $15 on the ballot. Groups intend to mobilize hundreds of supporters to City Hall debates on $15, calling for the city to put the decision back into the hands of ordinary people in Minneapolis. The initiative is backed by several labor unions, including the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, Communication Workers of America, People of Color Union Members, the Minnesota Nurses Association, Minnesota State Association of Letter Carriers (MSALC), Teamsters Local 120, Teamsters Local 320, and International Association of Machinists (IAM) State Council.
On August 3rd at 10am, rally at City Hall's committee of the whole meeting to demand that City Council lets the people of Minneapolis vote for $15. Corporations are lobbying City Council right now to block $15 from the ballot -- donate today to the Vote for 15 MN campaign, to build the movement to win $15 for Minneapolis.