After two years of determined organizing, low-wage workers have put $15/hr at the center of the political map in Minneapolis. Today, Mayor Betsy Hodges finally announced her support for raising the minimum wage at the city level, citing the roadblock posed by the GOP-dominated state legislature and federal government. A few weeks earlier, 2017 mayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds went further, supporting the proposal to take all Minneapolis workers to $15/hr.
We must win $15 in Minneapolis now more than ever. Trump has even appointed a Fast Food CEO as labor secretary, someone who says he doesn’t believe in a minimum wage! And in Minnesota, the state government could block workers’ rights legislation at the local level. It’s called pre-emption, and it’s been happening in states across the country.
But while Mayor Hodges’ statement marks a major step forward, it isn’t enough to claim support for a minimum wage increase without mentioning $15/hr. $15 is the number that workers have been fighting for, for years, the number that garnered almost 20,000 signatures this spring on a proposal supported by 68% of Minneapolis residents. $15/hr is supported by the city’s own economic impact study, both as a minimum wage sustainable for the local economy and as an amount that’s a bare minimum to get by in our city. Minneapolis has some of the nation’s worst racial disparities, and we need concrete changes to address that.
While she avoided mentioning $15, Mayor Hodges did declare her opposition to a tip credit - or rather, a tip penalty. Minnesota is one of just 7 states without a tip penalty, meaning that all businesses must pay their workers at least the minimum wage, before tips.
As a former server, I know firsthand that this is an issue of gender equity. Women working in the restaurant industry make only 68% of what their male counterparts make, and women servers report almost 6 times the national rate of sexual harassment in their workplaces. Tips are not wages, and women should never be compelled to tolerate sexual harassment to earn their paycheck. To introduce a tip penalty in Minneapolis would be a step backwards for workers.
Big business interests will use every tool they have to continue raking in record profits: whether it’s lobbying for a tip penalty, for a minimum wage under $15/hr, or for a state-wide pre-emption. We need to continue building our movement, to demand that elected officials don’t leave the door open for Trump’s agenda and corporate attacks. That means passing a $15/hr minimum wage in cities like Minneapolis, without carve-outs or exemptions like a tip penalty.
We can win a $15/hr minimum wage in Minneapolis this year, but only if our movement stands strong. 15 Now Minnesota has endorsed the call for protest on inauguration day, linking up the fight for $15/hr with the resistance to Trump’s racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-worker agenda.