Minneapolis Living Wage Ordinance Passes City Council Committee

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Backed by a coalition of labor unions, faith groups, and community organizations, a proposed living wage ordinance for the City of Minneapolis today passed the City Council’s Ways and Means Committee and now heads for a full City Council vote Friday.

Several City Council members added their names as authors of the ordinance today, adding up to a total of nine of the 13 Council members.

“We have a veto-proof majority,” said Ryan Greenwood, co-chair of the Living Wages Yes! Coalition and executive director of Progressive Minnesota.

Strong City Council support comes after months of grassroots organizing by the Living Wages Yes! Coalition. The Coalition aims to replace a weak 1997 living wage policy with a strong, enforceable living wage ordinance.

“We’ve been flooded with postcards, hundreds of postcards, thousands of postcards, coming in to the City Council and the Mayor in support,” said Council Member Paul Zerby, chief author of the Living Wage ordinance, speaking at a news conference before the Ways and Means Committee meeting.

“This is such a great, great coalition,” Zerby said. “It’s so great to see the labor movement, people of faith, community groups, pulling together for the same thing.”

The proposed living wage ordinance would require corporations which contract with the city or receive city subsidies to pay a living wage, defined as 130 percent of the federal poverty income level for a family of four. That requirement represents an hourly wage of $12.09.

“I support the living wage because it protects me,” said Abdullahi Musa, a member of Teamsters Local 120 who works at a parking ramp owned by the City of Minneapolis. “The living wage law means that I can take care of my wife and baby. The living wage law makes my life better.”

“Economic justice, living wages, fair treatment of workers are as old as the Five Books of Moses,” said Rabbi Simeon Glaser of Temple Israel, addressing the news conference.

“The living wage, it’s a movement, a national movement,” said Shada Buyobe-Hammond, chair of Minnesota ACORN. She noted that more than 100 cities and counties nationwide have enacted living wage ordinances.

At the Ways and Means Committee, Council Members heard testimony from the Living Wages! Yes Coalition and also from business community leaders. Speakers representing the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors Bureau expressed support for the concept of the living wage ordinance, raised concerns, but did not urge opposition to the proposed ordinance.

The Ways and Means Committee passed the living wage ordinance on a voice vote with only Council Member Barret Lane, 13th Ward, voting no.

If passed on Friday, the Minneapolis living wage ordinance “will be one of the strongest living wage standards in the country,” Greenwood said.

“This ordinance does not cure poverty in Minneapolis,” noted Bill McCarthy, co-chair of the Living Wages Yes! Coalition and president of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council. “It is, however, one important step forward in setting a wage standard in our community that no employer should go below.”

In addition to Zerby, the eight City Council members who have signed on as co-authors of the living wage ordinance include Scott Benson, Sandy Colvin-Roy, Barb Johnson, Natalie Johnson Lee, Robert Lilligren, Don Samuels, Gary Schiff, and Dean Zimmermann.

Zerby, Johnson Lee, Samuels, Schiff and Zimmermann all spoke in support of the living wage ordinance at the news conference preceeding the Ways and Means Committee meeting.

Living Wages! Yes Coalition members, who filled the City Council chambers and spilled out into the hallway, plan to be back in force again Friday for the full City Council vote.