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Minneapolis: You’ll vote on a $15 minimum wage this November

It will be up to voters to decide if Minneapolis’ lowest-wage workers should make no less than $15 an hour.

After gathering the thousands of signatures required to get the question on the ballot come Nov. 8, then being blocked by the Minneapolis City Council regardless, the group 15 Now Minnesota celebrated a victory Monday.

Judge Susan Robiner issued an order that morning saying the group’s request – that Minneapolis residents get to vote on a $15 an hour minimum wage in the city – be put on the ballot on Election Day. It was a decision supporters of the effort celebrated.

If the ballot question is approved and enacted, Minneapolis would be among the dozen or so states or cities to have a minimum wage of $15 an hour (either currently enacted or planned).

Signatures, vote to block, lawsuit

Robiner’s order came as the result of a lawsuit filed by 15 Now Minnesota, after the city council voted against the charter amendment proposal.

The Minneapolis city attorney said minimum wage isn’t something that can be addressed through what’s called a charter amendment, and must be done with an ordinance and a city council vote. Days later, the city council took the city attorney’s advice and voted to block the proposal from appearing in front of voters.

15 Now Minnesota quickly filed a lawsuit and, both sides made their arguments in front of Robiner on Aug. 12.

Robiner, ruling in the group’s favor, said the city’s argument that a charter amendment can’t address something like minimum wage is flawed, and uses too narrow a definition of a charter amendment.

You can read her full order here.

The group had expected an answer from Robiner this week because of an upcoming deadline. The county is in charge of getting all the ballots printed for the Nov. 8 election, and they have to have all of the information – which candidates and questions are going to be on it – by Aug. 26, in order for them to be ready when absentee voting starts Sept. 23.

Alondra Cano, one of the two city council members who voted in favor of the ballot question, sent out this tweet Monday.

On Facebook Monday, she said the city’s thousands of low-wage workers – “many of them Latino, African American and Indigenous families – will be able to achieve a better future for their children and community.”

Workers making minimum wage

Minnesota’s statewide minimum wage for large employers just jumped up to $9.50 on Aug. 1.

About 216,000 workers in Minnesota earned the effective minimum wage of $9 an hour or less last year. That’s from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, which released a report in February looking at the makeup of the state’s 1.58 million hourly earners.

That report doesn’t mention race, but a few years ago the Council on Black Minnesotans estimated nearly 3 out of every 10 households of African descent in Minnesota would get a boost from a minimum wage increase.

A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics last year found that in 2014 about 3 million workers were making at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. That made up about 3.9 percent of the 77 million hourly paid workers in the U.S.

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