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With 11-2 vote, Minneapolis City Council approves living wage ordinance

November 4, 2005

By Steve Share, Labor Review editor

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis City Council today voted 11-2 to adopt a living wage ordinance advanced by a coalition of labor unions, community organizations, and faith-based groups. Ward 13 Council Member Barret Lane and Ward 10 Council Member Dan Niziolek cast the two no votes.

Members of the Living Wage Yes! Coalition, who filled the City Council chambers with a standing-room-only crowd, burst into applause when Council President Paul Ostrow announced, “the measure is adopted.”

“I’m obviously pleased by the support of the City Council,” said Bill McCarthy, co-chair of the Living Wages Yes! Coalition and president of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council. “It really shows the overwhelming support by our city officials for the wages and working conditions of working people.”

The ordinance will require organizations who have city contracts in excess of $100,000 or who receive city subsidies in excess of $100,000 to pay a wage of $12.09 per hour. That represents an income equal to 130 percent of federal poverty guidelines for a family of four.

Unlike a previous living wage policy enacted by a City Council resolution in 1997, the new ordinance provides for enforcement mechanisms and financial penalties for organizations failing to comply.

“This is one of the strongest living wage ordinances in the country,” said Ryan Greenwood, co-chair of the Living Wages Yes! Coalition and executive director of Progressive Minnesota. “An overwhelming veto-proof majority of the City Council said this is something we believe in.”

Nearly every City Council member offered remarks before the vote, which Council Member Lisa Goodman criticized as “political” speech-making just a few days before the November 8 election.

“If it’s politics, so be it,” said Council Member Paul Zerby, chief author of the living wage ordinance. “Paul Wellstone said politics is about makes the lives of people better. If that’s why we’re here, let’s do it.”

Zerby thanked city staff and Living Wages Yes! Coalition members for working together to reach a compromise that would win City Council support. He read aloud the list of coalition members to dramatize the broad community coalition that came together to support the living wage ordinance.

“It’s so heartening to see organized labor and the different progressive organizations and faith groups form this kind of coalition,” he said. “I frankly hope this spreads like wildfire.”

“Building the coalition was just as important as passing the living wage,” observed the Central Labor Union Council’s Bill McCarthy.

Council Members Goodman, Ostrow and Barb Johnson challenged the Coalition to work to see that Hennepin County, the City of St. Paul and other adjacent jurisdictions also enact living wage measures. “I can’t underestimate the importance of a regional approach,” Goodman said.

Goodman, too,  acknowledged the work of city staff and the Living Wages Yes! Coalition to reach a compromise.

“In particular,” she added, “I want to point out the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council did a good job of keeping their eyes on the prize.”

More than 100 communities around the United States have enacted living wage ordinances.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak's office released a statement saying that Rybak would sign the ordinance.

Members of the Living Wages Yes! Coalition included: the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council, ISAIAH, Minnesota ACORN, Archdiocese of Saint Paul & Minneapolis Office of Social Justice, Jewish Community Action, Progressive Minnesota, SEIU MN State Council, AFSCME Council 5, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59, Teamsters DRIVE, UNITE HERE Local 17, Twin Cities Coalition of Labor Union Women, Confederation of Somali Communities of Minnesota, Twin Cities Religion & Labor Network, JOBS NOW Coalition, Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, Minneapolis Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, Green Party of Minnesota - 5th Congressional District, Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, and Saint Stephens Catholic Church.


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