Supporters of a $15 Minimum Wage with No Carve Outs in Minneapolis Flood Public Testimony, Highlight Overwhelming Support for Ordinance
On Thursday afternoon, the Minneapolis city council held a public hearing about the proposed $15 municipal minimum wage. Testifiers voiced overwhelming support for a $15 minimum wage for all Minneapolis workers, highlighting the need for a policy with no exemptions or carve-outs, strong enforcement mechanisms, and prompt implementation.
“I work at Pizza Luce in the back of the house and we need to raise the minimum wage to $15 and still be able to get tips as well,” said Donell Martin, a member of CTUL, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha/Center for Workers United in Justice. “We cannot survive on anything less than that. All of my money goes to rent and bills. There are many times where I have to eat at other people’s homes because I don’t have enough money for groceries after my basic, basic needs are met. This is no way for us to be living in 2017, in one of the most progressive cities in the country.”
Testifiers included workers from diverse backgrounds and workplaces. Low-wage workers from fast food, retail, and other industries testified to the impossibility of surviving on $9.50 and the hardships they face. Workers from various unions, community groups, and unaffiliated supporters also voiced support for the increase, which would give a raise to 71,000 Minneapolis workers, disproportionately impacting Black, Latinx, immigrant, and female workers.
Tipped workers emphasized the need for One Fair Wage of $15/hour with no tip penalty.
“A $15/hour base wage plus tips is a living wage, and anything less than that leaves tipped workers behind” said Alex Doebler, a bartender at Buca di Beppo in Downtown Minneapolis. “Raising the wage for servers has never caused the apocalyptic outcomes the restaurant lobby claims, and doesn’t end tipping. One Fair Wage is the right path for Minneapolis.”
Young workers spoke against the proposed training wage, which would mean workers under 20 years old could be paid a sub minimum wage for the first 90 days at any job.
“I first applied for a job when I was 15 years old, and started working when I was 17 so that I could start saving to go to college and help my parents with family expenses,” said Clara Parra, CTUL leader and fast food employee in Minneapolis. “We shouldn’t be paid a lower minimum wage when we are doing the same work as people who are over the age of 20. This means that those youth, like my little sister, would work three months at a job and never even make it to the minimum wage.There are people who are 20 and younger who also have children of their own who need to make a living wage of $15/hr as soon as possible.”
The hearing comes after years of community organizing, protests, and strikes in pursuit of a $15 minimum wage for all workers in Minneapolis. Last summer, workers collected more than 20,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot directly to voters through a ballot initiative. Despite being one of the largest ballot initiatives in Minneapolis history and polling at 68% support amongst likely voters, the city council took the measure to the Minnesota State Supreme Court, which ruled it unfit for voters.
“I support $15/hour for all because I work two part time jobs, I’m a single mother struggling to raise three beautiful children,” said Sondra Williams, who works at Cub Foods and is a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 653. “I’m doing the best I can, but I am still struggling. $15 would not only help me and my family out, but it would help out all of us who are struggling.”
Outside of the council chambers, supporters gathered for a moment of prayer to honor the two-year anniversary of the death of Teresa Benson, a worker leader with CTUL. Benson was employed at McDonald’s when she passed away on June 22nd, 2015, from the compounded effects of homelessness, food insecurity, and lack of healthcare.
“This is a public health crisis,” said Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “There is a correlation between poverty wages and life expectancy. Poverty takes a huge toll on the community and ends up being more expensive than paying living wages.”
City council is expected to discuss amendments to the proposal on June 28th at 10am in the council chambers, and vote on the final proposal on June 30th at 9:30am.