Minneapolis Getting To $15 Minimum Wage Four Years From Now, HOW WILL CORP'S LIVE???
The federal minimum wage currently has $1.32 less purchasing power than it had the last time it was raised in 2009, as part of an increase that started when Congress voted to raise it in 2007. By sheer coincidence, surely, this is also the longest that Congress has gone without raising the federal minimum wage. As of last June, it was 12 years.
But, on the bright side, many states and cities have raised their own wages — many of them, in response to the Fight for $15 campaign which started in 2012, to $15 an hour (an estimated living wage at that time). Or at least, they set them to increase over several years to $15, at which point it definitely will not be a living wage anymore, but it will still be better than nothing.
One of those cities is Minneapolis, which in 2017 passed a bill raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024. Unfortunately, ever since then, the city has been fighting a lawsuit from Graco, Inc., a manufacturer of fluid-handling systems and products that really, really does not want those wages to go up. It will shock you to know that they are also not unionized.
But, last week, the workers won and the state's Supreme Court decided that the city is allowed to set its own minimum wage, higher than the state's. Hooray!
Lawyers for Graco argued that allowing Minneapolis to set its own minimum wage would create an "unworkable patchwork of employee compensation standards." However, the company says it already pays all of its employees in Minneapolis $15 an hour anyway, so it's unclear what the issue is here. They do, however, seem to have claimed that it's actually unfair for the employees:
Graco currently pays all employees who work on its Minneapolis campus at least $15 an hour, with salaries averaging about $85,000 per year, according to spokeswoman Charlotte Boyd. The company moves some employees between its locations in Anoka, Rogers and Minneapolis and was able to do so because the pay and benefits remained consistent in each location, Boyd said.
When cities pass their own labor rules, "it's no longer an option to move employees due to these differences in pay and benefits packages, and no longer a fair system for the affected employees," Boyd said. "Additionally, differing employee compensation standards restrict our staffing flexibility and ability to attract talent, and thus our ability to compete."
Yes, this makes lots of sense. How can you attract talent if you have to pay them an amount that you already planned to pay them? It's all so confusing!
And yet the Supreme Court still decided that this was something they could probably figure out if they tried real hard.
"Graco's argument, while not without some initial appeal, ultimately fails," Chief Justice Lorie Gildea wrote in an opinion issued on behalf of the court.
Because employers would comply with the lower state rate while paying the higher city-mandated rate, there is no conflict, the court ruled.
"It is clear that the MFLSA establishes ... a minimum-wage floor for employers across the state," Gildea wrote. "But that floor leaves room for municipalities to regulate above."
Alas, it's not totally over yet, as a business group is now campaigning for a law making it illegal for cities to set their own minimum wages, even when they clearly have their own higher costs of living.
"We believe the decision perpetuates an unsustainable trend by local governments to act outside of their traditional authority," Doug Loon, president of the Minnesota Chamber, said in a statement.
"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."
Ah yes, the old "If you make us pay you a fair amount, we might not give you jobs."
Still, for now, the ordinance is going into effect and the low-wage workers will be getting their long overdue raises.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse