After many back and forth arguments over $15 an hour last year between advocates, policy makers and business owners, Minneapolis voters may end up being the ones deciding on whether or not to raise the city’s minimum wage.
Supporters of a citywide $15 an hour minimum wage are planning to put the issue on the ballot this fall, and are launching their campaign on Feb. 27 to begin collecting the required 7,000 signatures for the referendum to be recognized by the city.
The initiative is backed by a coalition of civil rights and workers’ rights advocacy groups, including 15 Now Minnesota, the Minneapolis NAACP, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, and Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, according to organizers.
15 Now organizer Kip Hedges said that while the groups haven’t begun to collect signatures yet, he’s confident the campaign will be well on its way to 7,000 by the end of spring. And he thinks much of the campaign will be galvanized by people of color who live and work in the city. “The racial equity gap is one of the key things involved in this effort,” he said. “Closing that, addressing it, having a discussion on it. So, that will be a major part of what we’re talking about.”
Minneapolis NAACP president Nekima Levy-Pounds, who will be the keynote speaker at the campaign kickoff this Saturday, said the NAACP will continue to support advocates of a $15 an hour minimum wage because too many African Americans live at or below the poverty line.
“I do believe that people of color will benefit from a $15 an hour minimum wage because we are overrepresented amongst the working poor,” Levy-Pounds said. “We see too many families experiencing food and housing instability as a result of their pay checks not extending far enough. This is a way of ensuring greater levels of equity for people of color.”
Anquanette Hollman has been working in the fast food industry for a couple years, she said, and $15 an hour would mean the difference between being independent and depending on her mom to help support her and her three daughters. “I have kids to feed,” she said. “And $9 an hour is not cutting it.”
Hollman, who’s black, said it makes sense for people who are affected by the minimum wage most to be the ones who determine it. She marched with CTUL last Thursday, when supporters of union janitors striking for $15 an hour blocked freeway entrances into downtown Minneapolis during morning rush hour.
As a single mom, Hollman said, she needs to worry about her kids needs on top of paying rent, utilities, car insurance, food and her phone bill. She said $15 an hour would make a huge difference in the quality of her life. “I could take care and provide for my family,” she said. “It would mean the world.”
Saturday’s campaign launch will take place at the Brian Coyle Center in south Minneapolis from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.