Chambers of Commerce suing Minneapolis, minimum wage crisis

Tiana Meador

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The city of Minneapolis recently enacted an ordinance to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024; unhappily, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is responding in a lawsuit against the city, citing state law infringement as the reason for court appeal. 

The ordinance, which requires large businesses to phase in the $15 minimum wage by July 1, 2022, and small businesses, or those with less than 100 employees, by July 1, 2024, already begins January 1, when large businesses will have to hike their minimum wage up to $10 per hour.

The state’s minimum wage is currently set at $9.50 an hour, which is set to spike to $9.65 on January 1, but only for large employers with a gross revenue of over $500,000. Small employers, currently at $7.75, are also on track to change, due to 2018 inflation rates.

The lawsuit, which was filed at the Hennepin County District Court in early November, has asked the court to issue injunction, but only temporarily, which will freeze the raise until a permanent injunction can nullify the ordinance. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce further has Minnesota Recruiting and Staffing Association (MRSA), the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce, and Graco Inc. listed as co-plaintiffs.

As shocking as it may seem, Minneapolis is not, and has not been, alone in the fight for 15. Seattle, Washington D.C., and San Francisco have adopted the progressive wage increase, and Minneapolis’s twin, St. Paul, has held debates over doing the same.

In an article with the Star Tribune by Cam Winton, the Chamber’s director of labor management policy said, “The state has set the minimum wage in Minnesota, and a city does not have the  power to set a different minimum wage.”

The $15 minimum wage was a popular issue on campus. The posters by Ginger Jentzen, former executive director for 15 Now Minnesota, could potentially now stand as a questionable fact of reality.

“Minneapolis workers will not only continue to fight and defend [the $15  minimum wage], but will mobilize to win greater gains based on the  confidence of building a movement that won,” Jentzen told Star Tribune.

Minneapolis, on the other hand, is quite fond of fighting the Chamber on numerous enacted ordinances; thus the lawsuit is no shock.

In 2016, the Chamber took the Minneapolis City Council to court in regards to their mandatory paid sick-leave ordinance. 

The court decided in January 2017 that the council could proceed forward with the ordinance, but it could only apply to employers based in the city, leaving the city with expectations of a win. 

Both cases, have left Chamber President Doug Loon up in arms. He asserts that ordinances regarding changing sick-pay laws and minimum wage laws overstep the city’s power and interfere with neighboring cities’ commerce.

“Businesses will spend more time understanding and complying with laws and less time innovating, growing and hiring new employees. Both ordinances undermine the market forces and creativity which are making Minnesota jobs among the most desirable in the nation,” said Loon in an early November statement.

The concerns that Loon raise are not a recent occurence, either.

When the $15 minimum wage was won in June 2017, small business workers were fearful.

In an article from CBS Minnesota, Councilman Blong Yang, a representative for northern Minneapolis, became worried about the future of small businesses and the general economy alike.

“What I’m concerned about are small businesses, independent businesses, minority and immigrant-owned businesses and their ability to sustain $15 an hour,” said Yang.

However, on a the flip side, people working minimum wage jobs for large corporations see this as a huge win to the below poverty-line working-class.

It is unclear what action the court will take in regards to the wage; however, it is clear that the deadline for a pay increase is approaching sharply. Action, if any, should occur within the next month.