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MN Supreme Court Upholds Mpls. Higher Minimum Wage

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The Minneapolis minimum wage ordinance, which has survived a legal challenge, requires both large and small companies to pay at least $15 an hour by the year 2024. (Clem Onojeghuo/Librestock)
The Minneapolis minimum wage ordinance, which has survived a legal challenge, requires both large and small companies to pay at least $15 an hour by the year 2024. (Clem Onojeghuo/Librestock)
 By Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN - Producer, Contact
January 23, 2020

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The legal fight over the $15 an hour minimum wage ordinance in Minneapolis appears settled for now, after it was upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Supporters of the ordinance are celebrating the decision. The higher minimum wage was approved in 2017 and is being phased in over a several-year period.

Opponents argue that it conflicts with existing state law and is harmful to businesses, especially smaller companies.

But Ken Jacobs, a labor economist at University of California Berkeley, says research on similar laws shows little evidence of higher wages having a negative effect.

"Workers are earning more, which is what the laws are intending to do," he points out. "And we are not seeing measurable effects on employment. So, the predictions that this would result employment decreases haven't come through."

Jacobs notes in Seattle, there was initial concern the higher wage there was slowing job growth, but research didn't bear that out.

The local branch of the Federal Reserve Bank has been asked to examine the Minneapolis ordinance. Those findings are due in the coming weeks.

It's unclear what sort of ripple effect the Minnesota high court ruling might have. But St. Paul has already adopted a similar ordinance.

And Jacobs says that seems to be the pattern in states where higher wages have prevailed in larger cities.

"So, we have seen in states that allow cities to raise the minimum wage, that we've seen a number of cities, especially in higher cost urban areas, choose to do so," he states.

The patchwork of higher wages in California led to a statewide law of $15 an hour.

In Minnesota, Democrats -- including Gov. Tim Walz -- have voiced support for a statewide $15-an-hour law.

But Senate Republicans argue that the current minimum wage is higher than in neighboring states, and is keeping pace with inflation.

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