Mpls. officials appeal minimum wage ruling as supporters plot huge voter drive

Charles Thornton urges a higher minimum wage.
Charles Thornton speaks in support of a higher minimum wage outside the Minneapolis Wendy's restaurant where he works on Tuesday.  
Jon Collins | MPR News

Updated: 6:20 p.m. | Posted: 3:00 p.m.

Supporters of a charter amendment for a $15 an hour minimum wage in Minneapolis are vowing to launch the biggest voter drive in the city's history.

Meanwhile, the city says it has filed an appeal in district court of the judge's decision allowing the measure to go on the ballot.

Neighborhoods Organizing for Change field director Mike Griffin said at a rally in north Minneapolis on Tuesday that his group planned to start canvassing for the Nov. 8 vote after Labor Day.

"We're going to knock on doors, we're going to make phone calls, we're going to talk to our neighbors," Griffin said. "And we're going to run a very targeted and skilled social media campaign reaching out to voters."

The charter amendment would gradually raise the minimum wage in the city based on the size of the business. Those with more than 500 employees would have to increase pay to at least $15 per hour by 2020. Smaller companies would have until 2022.

In a statement released Tuesday night, Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal said her office had filed a motion in Hennepin County District Court to stay Judge Susan Robiner's order issued on Monday.

The city also filed an appeal and a petition for accelerated review by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Segal said she hopes the court can rule "in a timely fashion for this fall's election."

We remain of the strong conviction that the petition to place a minimum wage ordinance on the ballot for inclusion in the city's charter is in conflict with Minnesota statutes and the Minneapolis Charter which contains no provision allowing such initiatives," Segal said in the emailed statement.

The Minneapolis City Council declined to approve the amendment earlier this month after Segal made a similar argument. Robiner ruled that the proposal should go before voters.

The ballot amendment language needs to be finalized by Friday.

John Stanoch, interim head of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, said his organization is calling on city officials to appeal the ruling. If the amendment does remain on the ballot, he expects the chamber and other business groups to strongly oppose it, although the exact strategies they will use are still under discussion.

"We will engage in the public discussion and we will use multiple platforms to deliver our message and articulate our concerns," Stanoch said. "We've already begun organizing business owners throughout the city who want their voices to be heard in this discussion."

Ginger Jentzen, executive director of 15 Now Minnesota, said a poll the advocacy group commissioned from Patinkin Research Strategies earlier this month showed strong support for a $15 minimum wage in Minneapolis, but that big business interests were pressuring city officials.

"They're being urged by the Chamber of Commerce to continue to defend poverty wages and not put a $15 minimum wage on the ballot to be decided by those workers who are most affected," Jentzen said.

Stanoch said supporters of the amendment characterize any opponents of raising the minimum wage as big businesses, but that many owners of small and new businesses are also concerned about the proposal.

Tenice Hodges, a bakery worker who attended the rally, spoke in support of raising the minimum wage in front of a Wendy's restaurant on West Broadway Avenue in Minneapolis.

"We're not out here begging for nothing, we work every day like everybody else, but the difference is that we're not making a wage that's sustainable to live a sufficient and quality life," Tenice Hodges told the crowd. "Everybody deserves a quality life, no matter who you are, what color you are, where you come from."

The group 15 Now Minnesota is planning to launch its voter turnout efforts with a rally on Sept. 12.