I delivered these remarks at the Minneapolis City Council meeting on June 30, 2017, just prior to the vote to increase the minimum wage in Minneapolis to $15.
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I want to extend my thanks to everyone who’s had a voice in this conversation.
Whatever position people held, whatever they thought at the beginning, whatever they think at the end—every voice made this process better. Every voice made this ordinance possible. I want to give special thanks to the advocacy groups and the labor groups who really put their shoulders to the wheel on this to make sure that it happened, and that made space for it to happen in the city of Minneapolis. Everybody worked to make it better, and I appreciate that.
This isn’t an end today. For 71,000 people in the city of Minneapolis, this is a beginning. For 71,000 workers this is a new day and a new opportunity. This is a day to be celebrated and I’m glad that we are. For a lot of people we have raised the floor of poverty significantly. For a lot of people, this will lift them out of poverty. For all the reasons that have been discussed here today, this has an impact on the entire chain of events that transpires before and after somebody finds themselves in poverty. Issues of immigration, language, education—these impacts are all ameliorated by a $15 an hour minimum wage. And so we celebrate today for all of those reasons, and I celebrate with you.
But there are 30,000 workers in Minneapolis who are not covered by this ordinance today. They are our neighbors, they are our community, they are our friends, and they are the people who we live with and among. They live here but they do not work here, and they are making minimum wage elsewhere in the state of Minnesota or elsewhere in our region. And we cannot forget them.
We are celebrating today as we should, but in our celebration we cannot forget those 30,000 workers. I won’t forget them. And it pains me that the levers we have at our disposal here in Minneapolis are not levers that can help them also make a higher wage. Those levers are in the hands of our state government. Those levers are in the hands of our federal government. And so today is also a beginning of a push to increase the minimum wage region-wide, statewide, and nationwide.
Because knowing the limits of our city government has guided my approach to this debate the entire time. It’s one of the reasons I was working with leaders around the region, local and municipal government leaders, as well as our progressive allies at the state legislature to say, “Let’s raise the minimum wage in our region, so that no Minneapolis workers will be left behind.” And I am grateful that Representative Hornstein and Senator Dibble introduced wage legislation this cycle: Senate File 2012 and House File 2253. And today should also be a call to support that effort, and to turn our eyes there so that we aren’t leaving any of our neighbors behind as we raise the wage.
But an election happened last November. The path forward on that regional approach was much narrowed, from what it had been. So, yes, let’s move forward in Minneapolis. But let’s keep our eyes on the prize for everybody. Not only do we want to make sure were doing what we can regionally, statewide and nationwide, but let’s keep our eyes on the prize doing the most we can for the highest number that we can. This is why I was very public and very adamant about my opposition to having a tip penalty in this ordinance. It’s why I’m grateful that there’s not one in here today. This state has lived for 40 years without one. Every time minimum wage comes up at the state, our progressive allies have to fight to make sure that there is not a tip penalty in the state of Minnesota. They have fought hard in Minnesota to make sure that we do not have one, knowing that it is better for the state and our state’s economy. And so there’s no way that I wanted to undermine them by having one in our ordinance, as we are going to be leading the way for the region. There’s no way that I wanted to give that gift to the Republicans who are coming after the people of Minneapolis.
So there’s no tip penalty in this ordinance today and I’m grateful for it. I led on that because this is about Minneapolis and the people of Minneapolis, but it’s also bigger than Minneapolis. We are in Minnesota and what we do here, if we do our jobs right, will also be happening in the region, statewide and ideally eventually nationwide. So today we are leading by example. I will keep fighting, and we will keep fighting for the 30,000 workers in Minneapolis who aren’t covered here today. Fighting to make sure that across our region and our state the tens and hundreds of thousands of workers who do need an increased wage will get one.
And so, next, I hope that we will join together to extend this to everybody who lives in Minneapolis. Bring it to cities and counties around our entire region. I hope that in 2018 we have a platform of fair wages and economic justice around the state, as we are having a statewide conversation about who we are as a people.
I know there are folks today who are not happy. I now there are folks today for whom this is not the ideal, wherever you land on the idea of minimum wage. But today I ask you to join me and to join us in this fight to make sure that in the region and at the state level we can do everything we can for workers, and by so doing, everything we can for the workers in Minneapolis. This is a celebration, and I join everybody in celebrating for the reasons that everyone has shared today. I am very excited and very proud of the work that we have done here today. We have done a lot for a lot of people, and we get to do more, starting now.