Minnesota High Court OKs $15 Minimum Wage in Minneapolis

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CN) – The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld Minneapolis’ $15 minimum wage ordinance Wednesday, concluding a three-year battle over the pay hike in the state’s largest city.

Affirming rulings by the Minnesota Court of Appeals and a Hennepin County District Court judge, the high court found that the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act– which set the state minimum wage at $9.86 per hour for large employers and $8.04 per hour for small ones at the time of the suit– does not preempt a city’s ability to set its own higher minimums.

Graco Inc., a Minneapolis-based manufacturer of manufacturing and construction products, had sued the city over the new minimum wage.

The Minnesota State Capitol.

In a 19-page opinion, Chief Justice Lorie Gildea noted that that the state did not seek to be the sole arbiter of minimum wage rates when it passed the law.

“Because employers can comply with both the city’s ordinance governing minimum-wages rates and the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act, the ordinance and statute are reconcilable and therefore do not conflict,” Gildea wrote.

Minneapolis’ 2017 adoption of a $15 minimum wage made it the first Midwestern city to do so. Its sister city, the state capital of St. Paul, passed its own $15 wage ordinance the following year. Both cities’ ordinances roll out the minimum wage over a period of years and according to the size of the company, with Minneapolis slowly scaling up to a hard $15 floor in 2022 and St. Paul doing the same in 2024.

Other major cities like Seattle, New York and Washington, D.C. are also in the $15 club. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $15 minimum wage bill in July that has languished in the Senate. Since then, the state of Illinois has also raised its minimum wage, though not to $15.

Opponents of the wage ordinance expressed their displeasure with the ruling.

“We believe the decision perpetuates an unsustainable trend by local governments to act outside of their traditional authority,” Minnesota Chamber of Commerce President Doug Loon said in a statement, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “It is now up to state policymakers to explicitly prohibit these ordinances so employers can spend less time understanding and complying with duplicative or inconsistent laws and devote more time to innovating, growing and hiring new employees.”

Graco spokeswoman Charlotte Boyd echoed that sentiment to the Star Tribune, saying the wage’s impact on the company’s ability to move employees from place to place hurt its competitiveness.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey celebrated the ruling on Twitter.

“The battle for our minimum wage ordinance is over,” he wrote. “Today’s ruling affirms the right to a living wage for thousands of workers and cements Minneapolis’ status as a city willing to fight for inclusive economic policies.”

Frey has garnered national attention for his feuds with President Donald Trump, but the fight for a $15 wage in Minneapolis long preceded him. Local politicians in the heavily Democratic city initially dismissed the campaign when grassroots organizers, fast-food workers and labor groups started pushing for the wage hike in 2013, according to Ginger Jentzen, who served as executive director of the organization 15 Now during the campaign.

“I think that the victory is really a testament to what grassroots movements can accomplish,” Jentzen said. “We can see now that movements can make possible what is considered illegal or impossible by the political establishment.”

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