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Mpls. council panel: City – not voters – should raise minimum wage

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Minneapolis city council members followed the advice of their attorney Wednesday by voting to keep the question of a minimum wage hike off the November ballot.

Then they ordered city staff to start working on a minimum wage increase council members could pass themselves.

The votes came while the council met as a "committee of the whole." They'll have another meeting Friday to finalize their decisions (or perhaps change their mind).

Meeting disrupted by critics

The vote to keep the minimum wage question off the ballot angered activists who argue the thousands of signatures they've collected on a petition meet the rules for putting a proposed amendment to the city charger in front of the people. You can watch the testimony to the council here.

MPR News reports demonstrators temporarily shut down the committee meeting with jeering and chanting.

But after their recess, the council members approved a measure ordering city staff to start work on a minimum wage ordinance. MinnPost says the city coordinator was told to meet with "stakeholders," review wage laws in other cities, incorporate results of a local economic study, and deliver recommendations for an ordinance by next spring.

The council approved the order on a 10-2 vote. In a statement released by council members after the meeting, Jacob Frey said he supports raising the minimum wage, adding “But I support ... doing it the right way by conducting engagement, drafting a policy, and hammering out micro-details to pass a policy that helps people and is functional.”

Council member Andrew Johnson said a similar process was used last year to craft a mandatory sick leave ordinance.

Possible lawsuit?

The advocacy group 15 Now takes exception with the legal opinion City Attorney Susan Segal wrote last week advising the council to keep the question off the ballot.

15 Now executive director Ginger Jentzen maintains it was politically motivated. "(T)he staff directive was introduced to give council members cover against coming out in support of $15/hour,” Jentzen says. “The council is hiding behind the City Attorney’s opinion."

City Pages spoke to a lawyer for 15 Now and says the group is expected to file a lawsuit asking a court to order Minneapolis to put the question on the ballot.

Advocates for a $15 dollar an hour wage emphasize the boost it would give thousands of workers and their families.

Analysts writing for Bloomberg and Forbes have said a $15 wage is higher than the market can sustain and predict it would lead to job losses.

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