After low-wage workers secured over 8,000 verified petition signatures in support of a $15 minimum wage charter amendment, City Attorney Susan Segal today issued an opinion that this is not a proper charter amendment because it "does not relate to the establishment, administration or regulation of city government."
In fact, the Charter has been a place for city residents to have their voices heard since its adoption in 1920 -- including many provisions that regulate and set conditions on business. Now, Minneapolis residents again are seeking to have their voices heard on an issue important to its residents: minimum wage within Minneapolis.
Opponents of raising the wage have been using obscure legal arguments about the limitations of charter amendments to block a wage increase. In fact, provisions of the charter have been used broadly throughout Minneapolis history -- including regulating and licensing businesses. So, we decided to look back in Minneapolis history on five things weirder than the minimum wage that have been regulated by the Minneapolis city charter:
1. The size and weight of bread.
Do you ever get annoyed that your baguette is small or your sandwich bread is too large. Well at one point, Minneapolis decided to add to the charter regulations on the size of bread.
2. The amount of times a horse stable has needed to be cleaned.
No dirty stables here. Minneapolis once had a charter amendment that told stable owners when and how much to clean their horse stables. Important city business.
3. The amount and level of discharge of steam by boats.
A very steamy topic.
4. The ratio of food to alcohol sales in restaurants.
In 2014, Minneapolis voters changed the food-to-alcohol sales ratio at the ballot. Democracy in action just two years ago.
5. The establishment of slaughterhouses.
Regulated by the city charter to this day.
Based on our history, unless it's a power clearly reserved for another level of government like trying to send troops into war or is manifestly unconstitutional, it's clear that our Charter has no limit to what it can have in it with regard to regulating business. And what makes it even more clear is actually in the charter itself. The Minneapolis charter explicitly states that just because a power isn't expressed that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
So, when opponents of raising the wage in the City of Minneapolis tell you that the City Charter isn't the right place for raising wages, tell them horse shit, which, of course, has also been regulated by the Minneapolis Charter.