St. Paul leaders are poised to follow Minneapolis’ lead and pass a $15 citywide minimum wage with no exemptions for tipped workers — though some in the capital city wouldn’t reach $15 for nearly a decade.
More than 56,000 workers would get a raise under St. Paul’s proposed minimum wage ordinance, which Mayor Melvin Carter and City Council Member Chris Tolbert described at a City Hall news conference Tuesday.
“As part of our drive to build a city that works for all of us, we’ve committed ourselves to ensuring that no one who works full-time is ever stuck raising their children in poverty,” Carter said.
Under the proposed ordinance, those in the smallest workplaces won’t be eligible for the $15 minimum until 2027 — three years after the last workers in Minneapolis.
In St. Paul, employers would be required to begin phasing in the wage increase in 2020. City employees would reach $15 an hour first, in July 2022, followed by workers at large businesses — those with more than 100 employees — in July 2023.
Small businesses with 6 to 100 employees would reach $15 in July 2025, and “micro” businesses — those with five or fewer employees — would follow in July 2027.
The ordinance includes exemptions for youth workers in city-approved training programs, people with disabilities classified as extended employment workers under state law, those covered by a collective bargaining agreement and players on the roster of the Saints baseball team.
Despite a spirited campaign by restaurant workers who fear a $15 minimum wage would threaten their jobs, the proposed ordinance in St. Paul doesn’t make an exemption for tipped workers. That’s consistent with Minneapolis’ policy.
Carter pledged to pass a citywide $15 minimum wage when he took office in January. He has consistently said he opposes excluding tipped workers — an exemption known as a “tip credit” or “tip penalty,” which allows employers to pay tipped workers a lower wage and count tips toward the $15 minimum.
“We want those employees to have the same level of predictability and stability in their family budgets as we aspire for all of our families,” Carter said Tuesday.
Advocates for low-wage workers, restaurant employees and the business community had varying reactions to the draft ordinance Tuesday, and none was entirely satisfied.
Celeste Robinson, an organizer with 15 Now Minnesota, said the advocacy group is excited to see St. Paul propose a $15 minimum wage but wants it to apply to all workers, with no exemptions.
Jennifer Schellenberg, president of Restaurant Workers of America, said she was disappointed that the proposed ordinance doesn’t include an exemption for tipped workers.
In a statement, St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO B Kyle also wanted that exemption. In addition, Kyle questioned how the city’s minimum wage policy will account for employers “whose funding comes from sources beyond the control of the city,” such as home health care providers who rely on federal Medicaid reimbursements.
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce expressed opposition to the city setting its own minimum wage.
“Local government mandates are especially troubling as they create a patchwork of local laws for businesses to navigate across the state,” said Lauryn Schothorst, Minnesota Chamber director of energy and labor management policy, in a statement. “This creates administrative headaches, especially for those businesses that operate in multiple locations.”
In an interview, Council Member Rebecca Noecker said she will likely introduce amendments to the ordinance. She said she wants city officials to plan and budget for education and enforcement, and also to consider a faster phase-in for multinational corporations.
“We know that workers can’t wait,” she said. “And at the same time, I think we’re doing everything we can to make sure we’re considering the impact on the city and the economy more broadly.”
The draft ordinance will be on the City Council agenda for the first time Oct. 17, and a public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 7 at City Hall.
City officials have spent this year meeting with workers, employers and advocates on different sides of the wage debate. The nonpartisan Citizens League conducted a study of the wage issue in St. Paul beginning in fall 2017 and released a final report in August with recommendations for how the city should implement a wage increase.
Tolbert said the draft ordinance is a “framework of consensus.”
“My colleagues have been very supportive. We’ve worked together to try and build consensus in this first ordinance,” he said. “But I’m sure we’ll have much debate and much conversation as we refine and finalize the ordinance to pass by the end of this year.”
A news release from the mayor’s office included statements of support from five of seven council members — more than enough to pass the ordinance.