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A city minimum wage? Candidates weigh in

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: October 4, 2013 - 6:05 PM

Should Minneapolis impose its own minimum wage?

That question drew a variety of answers Thursday night from candidates vying to replace outgoing Council Member Gary Schiff in South Minneapolis. It came up during a candidate forum held beside a crackling fire at an urban farm just off the Midtown Greenway.

An effort to raise the state minimum wage to just over $9-an-hour failed at the Legislature this year. Ty Moore, a Green Party-endorsed "Socialist Alternative" running for Schiff's seat, has advocated raising Minneapolis' minimum wage to $15-an-hour.

Minneapolis businesses currently abide by state and federal minimum wages, but several cities across the country have passed minimum wages higher than their states.

Whether a city-authorized minimum wage would be legal in Minnesota is unclear, said Myron Orfield, a University of Minnesota professor. Orfield said it would depend on whether the state has legally "enacted a statute that looks like it intends to occupy this field." The city attorney's office would not comment on the legality because no one at the city -- their client -- has asked them to review it.

Moore has made the issue a core component of his platform.

"There’s no way I think the current City Council, with its continued allegiance to the Chamber of Commerce and big business in the city, is going to do that without huge pressure from below," Moore said, adding that he would favor taxing larger businesses to subsidize those smaller businesses that cannot afford to pay $15-an-hour wages.

Alondra Cano, the DFL-endorsed candiate in the race, said people should rally and lobby the state for a higher minimum wage. She was unsure whether Minneapolis had the power to go it alone.

Schiff, who has not endorsed in the race, said in an interview that he is “very sure” that the city cannot impose its own minimum wage. The city instead has living wage ordinances, which attach a higher hourly rate to projects involving city dollars.

“This is just a red herring that Ty Moore is using that demonstrates he really doesn’t understand the job he is applying for,” Schiff said.

Charles Curtis, running under the banner of "Politics with Principle," pointedly criticized the idea of a city minimum wage. He said the the intent of statewide and federal minimum wages are to "create fairness between jurisdictions," ensuring major companies do not simply move to nearby municipalities to escape local wage regulations.

"You have to do this together with all of these jurisdictions as one. Otherwise we lose out as a community," Curtis said."You want to see higher poverty rates and more unemployment? That’s exactly how you do it.”

Abdi Abdulle, a DFLer, appeared to oppose a $15 minimum wage at the state or city level. "A lot of businesses that propose to hire youth, they’re not willing to accept $15 minimum wage right now," Abdulle said. He said he could support a $10 minimum wage.

Pictured: Curtis, Moore, Abdulle and Cano

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