Minnesota Wages War

Minimum wage dispute: State v Minneapolis

Illustrator: Katie Heywood

70 percent of students in college have worked while obtaining an education. More students are working while attending school full-time than 25 years ago, according to a Georgetown University study published in 2015. This increase is due to many factors like the cost of an education, and the age or experience of the student. Regardless of the situation of the student, minimum wage jobs are important for students. They offer experience in the workforce and don’t require much background, while offering in-company promotions or management positions—marketable in post-college job searches. And now, in Minnesota, the minimum wage is increasing from $9.50 for large businesses and $7.75 for smaller ones to $15 an hour for all.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is suing the city of Minneapolis over the minimum wage increase.

The state of Minnesota’s Chamber of Commerce requested in district court an injunction to halt the ordinance. Following the halt, the chamber requested another injunction to permanently invalidate the change in minimum wage in the city.

What?

To clarify, an injunction is a legal term for lawsuit, and the Chamber of Commerce is an organized local association that cares about business interests of a given place—in this case, the state of Minnesota.

Since states decide minimum wages, the Chamber of Commerce claims the city does not have the authority to increase the minimum, and they are filing a lawsuit to dispute the increase. In short, the state is suing the city.

Background

The Minnesota minimum wage increased in the city of Minneapolis following a vote by the city council this summer. The increase from $9.50 to $15 an hour will be fully implemented by July 2024.

The push for this increase created controversy with the split of a livable wage and a sustainable business. The concerns of those in favor of the raise are focused on the cost of living in the city, while the counter argument express concern for the ability of smaller businesses to operate without reducing staff.

Other Cities

Minneapolis is the first Midwest city to implement the change. Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. have all increased minimum wage in cities without altering the state’s minimum. The Minneapolis increase is modeled after these cities in the way the change will be gradually “phased in” over the course of four years, beginning in 2020.

A living wage isn’t the same for all people in one state. The calculations of a living wage differ between larger cities and smaller ones. In London, the Greater London Authority surveyed the population twice about local conditions to find a “poverty threshold figure” reported by The Economist—something Minneapolis could try. Learning from other cities, states, and even countries, it becomes clear that a blanket minimum isn’t as simple as it sounds. Narrowly tailoring anything is a complicated task due to the vast range in living expenses within a state.

15 Now

15 Now is an organization dedicated to fighting for a $15 minimum wage in Minneapolis. The organization plans to dispute the Chamber’s attempt to sue the city. Ginger Jentzen, the former executive director of the organization, released a statement rebuking large businesses’ desperation to protect their profits amid changes in wages.

The injunction requests must be acted upon in the upcoming months; until then, businesses are planning to implement the law which was passed this summer. Large businesses will raise their minimum to $10 an hour beginning January 2018. The University of Minnesota will be included in this raise, paying minimum wage employees $10 this new year.

Students who feel passionately about the minimum wage increase can visit 15Now.org for events and demonstration dates, or contact the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce with questions about the injunction requests.