VoteIn a huge turn of events, on August 22, 2016, Hennepin County District Court Judge Susan M. Robiner resurrected the $15 minimum wage ballot question for the City of Minneapolis to put on the November 8, 2016 ballot. The case, brought by individuals related to 15 Now MN, is styled Vasseur et al. v. City of Minneapolis et al., Court File No. 27-CV-16-11794, (Minn. Fourth Judicial District, Aug. 22, 2016), and the decision can be found here. The ballot question, drafted by the City of Minneapolis Attorney, will be as follows:

“Proposal to Amend the Minneapolis City Charter to require a $15 Minimum Wage for Employees Working in Minneapolis.

Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to require all employees working within the geographic boundaries of the City of Minneapolis to be paid a $15 minimum wage by their employers, regardless of the employers’ geographic location, to be phased in starting at $10.00 as of August 1, 2017 and increasing to $15 by the year 2020 for employers with 500 or more employees and by the year 2022 for employers with fewer than 500 employees and increasing thereafter based upon the non-seasonally adjusted consumer price index as published by the U.S. Department of Labor, such charter provisions to be enforced by the City of Minneapolis and permitting private civil actions in a court of law?”

How Did We Get Here?

As you may recall, because my blog is just so memorable…on July 28, 2016, I wrote about Vote for 15 MN’s petition to the City of Minneapolis to amend its Charter to require a $15 minimum wage by 2020 for large employers, and 2022 for small employers.  Accordingly, if you want to read all about the implications of the proposed amendment you can find it that post (in other words, I won’t regurgitate it in this post though it is all applicable again).  However, later that day, the City of Minneapolis Attorney publicly filed a memorandum declaring that the proposed Charter was inappropriate for a ballot referendum, as I wrote about here. That has now been undone.

Judge Robiner’s opinion summarized her legal analysis supporting the ballot question thus:

  • “No Minnesota case law supports the City’s claim that general welfare legislation may only be proposed through initiative and referendum;
  • No Minnesota case law supports the City’s claim that ‘all local municipal functions’ means only ‘the form, structure, and functioning of the municipal government’;
  • Minnesota cases have allowed district courts to enjoin elections only where the proposed charger amendment was unconstitutional or conflicted with state law neither of which are even argued by the City; and,
  • For a court to enjoin a ballot initiative based on its content when that proposal has garnered the proper number of signatures and proceeded properly could reasonably be seen as overreaching its specific role under Minn. Stat. § 204B.44 and its general role in a government that respects separation of powers.”

What’s Next?  

Well, the Court ordered the City of Minneapolis to prepare a ballot for the November 8, 2016 election that includes the Vote for 15 MN proposed amendment. In order to pass, at least 51% of voters must vote in favor of the amendment.  If that happens, the first wage increase will be August 1, 2017. It appears 15 Now MN has set up a National Day of Action for $15/hour on September 12, and will start knocking on doors on September 17. However, the City may also appeal Judge Robiner’s Order to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Since I was dead wrong on how this would turn out in my first post, I’m not even going to make a prediction on this third post!  Stay tuned…