Congratulations are in order to 15 Now Minnesota, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha, MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) and all the organizers and volunteers of the minimum wage ballot initiative for the incredible job they did collecting and submitting nearly 20,000, as well as to the City Clerk's office staff for the thorough job they did validating the signatures.
Why? Because this morning the City Clerk informed the Council and announced to the public, that the petition has a sufficient number of valid signatures to put the minimum wage Charter amendment proposal on the ballot this November.
He reported receiving, 2,068 petition pages with 17,902 signatures and found a total of 8,418 who could be clearly validated as registered voters in Minneapolis. This was well over the 6,869 required.
While imagining a $15 minimum wage may seem drastic, or dramatic, to some today when they first here it. This proposal is surprisingly careful, reasonable and thoughtful. Modeled after similar legislation that has passed and been successfully implemented in elsewhere, it calls for a series of gradual increases over time to help address the growing economic disparities in our city and our state.
The proposal would add a provision in the Charter that would give the City Council the authority to set a minimum wage and would phase in increases gradually over the next 6 years. For employers with 500 or more employees the minimum hourly wage would be $10 starting August 1, 2017 and increase annually until it reaches $15 in 2020. Starting August 1, 2021 and each August 1 thereafter, the hourly minimum wage would be adjusted to keep pace with the rising cost of living. For employers with fewer than 500 employees working within the geographic boundaries of the City, the hourly minimum wage would be $10 starting August 1, 2017 but increase more gradually, a dollar a year, so that it would be $15 starting August 1, 2022.
At the meeting this morning, the Council, through its Committee of the Whole, also directed the City Attorney to return with a legal opinion and draft ballot language for this and the other charter amendment being proposed by voters through petition.
The motion that passed the committee unanimously, is as follows:
Committee of the Whole
July 20, 2016
Petition for Police Liability Insurance (see HECE Agenda 071116, Item No. 12)
Petition for Minimum Wage Charter Amendment (COW, Item No. 5)
1. Directing the City Attorney to prepare a legal opinion on the two citizen petition charter amendments on whether they are appropriate proposals for placement on the ballot under applicable law and to draft ballot questions for the two proposed amendments. The two opinions shall be public opinions. The opinions and draft ballot questions shall be distributed to the Council and made available to the public by no later than Thursday, July 28, 2016.
2. Referring both petitions for charter amendments to the next regular meeting of the Committee of the Whole, scheduled for Wednesday, August 3, 2016, at 10 a.m., for review and recommendation for final action by the full City Council at its regular meeting on Friday, August 5, 2016."
I am very excited to see this issue coming forward and consider it as a victory not just for the organizers, not just because of it might further economic justice in our city, but also because it is a victory for grassroots democracy in Minneapolis. Residents, registered voters, have come together, got involved and engaged and are bringing forward an idea that they believe will help us address some of the most significant and persistent problems in our city. They are seeing the benefits city minimum wage increases have brought to place like Seattle and why so many other cities have passed similar laws in recent years. And they have followed the legally established process to legitimately present their idea for consideration to their fellow voters in Minneapolis.
Now that the petition is properly before us and once we confirm that is does not constitute a violation of state or federal law, (as I believe) I am convinced that it is the proper role of the City Council to consider and approve ballot language and put this matter before the voters in November.
I will look forward to seeing the attorney's opinion next week and the proposed ballot language. I look forward to voting on August 5th to put this on the ballot; and I look forward to participating in the campaign in the short months ahead and voting for it in November.