St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter joined more than 50 supporters of a citywide $15 minimum wage outside City Hall on Wednesday, less than an hour before the wage ordinance was introduced in the City Council.
Though the council is expected to approve a $15 minimum wage, Carter told the crowd of workers, activists and elected officials that their fight isn't over.
"We wouldn't be able to do it without all of you guys' push, and the advocacy that all you guys have done," the mayor told the group before turning to address members of the media. "We're not done yet. We're going to need some more help."
The mayor has pledged to pass an ordinance raising St. Paul's minimum wage by the end of the year. The ordinance before the council would require employers to begin phasing in the wage increase in 2020.
Council Member Dai Thao said Wednesday he intends to introduce an amendment allowing businesses with fewer than 100 employees to raise the minimum wage more slowly at first, while still reaching $15 in 2025 or 2027, depending on size.
The council did not take action on the ordinance Wednesday. A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 7, and the council will likely vote the following week.
The proposed ordinance does not include an exemption for tipped workers — something that server Erin Lynch lauded as she spoke outside City Hall. Lynch said she routinely experiences sexual harassment from customers and that not having to depend on tips "puts me in a better position to stand up for my dignity."
Some servers, bartenders and restaurant owners have organized during the past year in favor of an exemption, saying their industry will not be able to survive without counting workers' tips toward a $15 minimum. On Wednesday, four people who support the exemption stood at the edge of the crowd, holding placards.
Once the main demonstration was over, Carter turned again to the group behind him.
"I'm a millennial-era mayor. It didn't really happen unless I take a selfie," he said, before lifting his phone to capture the laughing crowd.