Above: Food workers protested low wages and some struck to demand $15 an hour wages at the Uptown McDonalds Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in Minneapolis (David Joles)
Minneapolis leaders are pressing forward with a study of how a potential citywide or countywide minimum wage increase would impact the local economy.
A council panel authorized staff on Tuesday to solicit proposals for such a study, which would be completed in March 2016 if a contract is ultimately signed. The $150,000 study will examine impacts of a $12 and $15 minimum wage, applied either just in Minneapolis or in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.
The state, meanwhile, is phasing in a wage increase that will reach $9.50 for large employers by August 2016.
It remains unclear, however, whether the city has authority to impose its own minimum wage under state law. It's expected that will be known before the city officially commissions the study later this year.
“We are not yet at the point where we are comfortable issuing an opinion on that question," said city attorney Susan Segal.
Five cities have created some form of a municipal minimum wage. Minneapolis is unique compared to other major cities examining the issue, however, because it has the lowest percentage of workers who also live in the city itself. Only 33 percent of low-wage workers who live in the city also work there, the city has found.
New York City is moving faster than New York state to implement a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers. Seattle is phasing in a $15 minimum wage until 2019. Los Angeles is phasing in a $15 minimum wage until 2020. San Fransisco is phasing in an increase to $15 until 2018, Chicago is aiming for $13 by 2019.
Minneapolis' initial research has found that low-wage jobs are primarily found in food preparation, sales and personal care occupations.
“What’s before us today is a request for proposals to study an issue that has national momentum," said Council Member Alondra Cano. "That has captured the imagination of working families across not only our city and our state, but certainly the United States.”
The lone 'no' vote for the request for study proposals came from Council Member Lisa Goodman, who found it somewhat pointless to spend money on an issue that currently lacks enough political support to pass.
"I guess I’d like to ask Ms. Segal that we have a legal opinion before we spend $175,000 to study something that seven people don’t want to vote for – and the mayor – right now," Goodman said.
The study would specifically look at the effects of phasing in a $12 or $15 minimum wage over five yeras. It would examine the impact on the Minneapolis economy, as well as that of the seven-county metropolitan area.
The study will also analyze the impact on workers, broken down by occupation and demographics, as well as the potential job creation or loss.