A $15 minimum wage that makes no exception for tipped workers has gained enough City Council support to earn passage into law in Minneapolis.

Such a proposal would win at least the necessary seven votes on the 13-member council, members said this week, which would make Minneapolis the latest in a string of major U.S. cities to pass a dramatically increased municipal minimum wage.

There is no ordinance for the council to vote on yet and there won’t be until at least May. But the minimum wage has been a central issue in the campaign leading to November’s city elections, and Minneapolis council members — almost all of them on the ballot — are taking firm positions ahead of the DFL conventions that start in late April.

“We are building momentum to pass one fair $15 wage this summer,” said Council Member Lisa Bender. “The public pressure on this issue is increasing. I think we will pass a strong policy.”

Details such as when the higher minimum wage would take effect, whether small businesses would be exempt and whether the ordinance would allow for a lower youth wage will be up for negotiation.

Council Members Alondra Cano and Cam Gordon have for months expressed support for a $15 minimum wage without a tip carveout, and Bender, John Quincy and Abdi Warsame announced their support Monday. Mayor Betsy Hodges, who is running for re-election, has argued against a tip carveout and said Tuesday in a Facebook post that the minimum wage should be $15 an hour.

“Having those council members come out with the mayor really sets that vote on a path to victory,” said Cano, who first made her position public in October. “It’s very doable.”

Council Members Elizabeth Glidden and Jacob Frey, who is running for mayor, confirmed their support Tuesday, as did Council Member Linea Palmisano.

“I support getting to a $15 minimum wage in the city at some point,” Palmisano said. “I’m still waiting to see a specific proposal, and I think the arguments against a tip penalty and for one fair wage are very compelling.”

Restaurant owners said they will keep fighting for an ordinance that counts tips toward a $15 minimum wage and warned that their business model will be rocked if the ordinance doesn’t include a tip carveout.

“If the City Council refuses to recognize tips as income, it will have a devastating impact on restaurants in Minneapolis, especially ones like mine that are built for budget-conscious diners,” Heather Bray, owner of the Lowbrow, said in a statement, noting the restaurant would have to raise prices and eliminate tipping or switch to a fast-casual format. “Our servers are making great money and they are proud of their craft. Refusing to count tips will turn $28 dollar-an-hour jobs into $15 dollar-an-hour jobs.”

Coastal wages

Such an ordinance follows a national trend, but Minneapolis would be the first major city in the midwest to pass a $15 minimum wage.

Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., have already passed $15 minimum wages, with various phase-in plans. Seattle and Washington, D.C.’s minimum wage hikes exempt tipped workers (until 2025 in the case of Seattle), while the minimum wage hikes in San Francisco and Los Angeles make no exemption. California and New York both passed statewide $15 minimum wages last year.

Chicago passed a $13.50 minimum wage in 2014 that will go into effect by 2019, and the Illinois legislature is weighing a $15 statewide minimum wage.

The Minnesota House of Representatives voted for a bill pre-empting local labor rules that’s aimed at sick leave and minimum wage ordinances in Minneapolis and St. Paul, but the bill hasn’t passed the Senate and Gov. Mark Dayton says he is opposed to such a law.

Eight states in the country — including California and Minnesota — have the same minimum wage for tipped workers and non-tipped workers. No city in any of those states has created a two-tiered minimum wage, said Laura Huizar, a staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project.

“For Minneapolis to create a tip credit in what we call a ‘one fair wage’ state would be unprecedented as far as we know,” Huizar said.

But across the country, no $15 minimum wage is yet fully in effect. The first city to pass one, San Francisco, stipulated that its law go into effect by 2018.

‘Decisions to be made’

Jonathan Weinhagen, the president of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday many questions remain to be answered — the phase-in period, whether a minimum wage hike makes an exception for youth workers — and he wishes council members had waited to get more input from the community before taking positions.

“To the extent that there is a voting bloc that already has something prepared and is ready to act on it, that would suggest to me that the listening sessions were in vain,” Weinhagen said. “All signs point to a council that was ready for action before they saw any input from stakeholders.”

Council President Barb Johnson said she will vote for a minimum-wage increase in Minneapolis this summer, but she, too, is disappointed with her colleagues for not waiting for a report in May on the 16 listening sessions held earlier this year.

“We’ve got a staff report coming forward, and I find it somewhat frustrating when people jump ahead of the process that they supported,” Johnson said. “I am going to vote for an increase in the minimum wage in the city. The question is what’s the timetable and who does it involve in terms of size of business, how many hours you work, and the age of workers. Lots of decisions to be made.”


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