Minnesota Supreme Court Upholds Minneapolis $15 Minimum Wage

In response to the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Minneapolis $15 minimum wage ordinance as a valid exercise of the city’s powers, Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project; Sherry Leiwant, co-founder and co-president of A Better Balance; and Kim Haddow, director of the Local Solutions Support Center, issued the following joint statement:

“Today marks a historic victory for workers and local democracy in the Twin Cities. Minnesota’s Supreme Court today affirmed Minneapolis’s right to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“Today’s decision upholds Minnesota’s longstanding respect for local democracy. The city council passed its minimum wage law using established local authority to address residents’ urgent health, safety, and general welfare priorities. But corporate interests, rather than investing in workers, tied up the measure in the courts and simultaneously pushed the state legislature to strip the city of its power to address wages and other worker protections.

“Today’s ruling upholds the authority and autonomy of localities in Minnesota and allows Minneapolis to join the more than 40 cities and counties nationwide—including St. Paul—that have raised the minimum wage. Minneapolis will continue to stand as a model for how cities can support a worker-led vision for a more just and successful economy.

“The Minnesota Supreme Court now stands to decide whether Minneapolis’ separate ordinance guaranteeing workers a basic right to paid sick time will also be upheld as a valid exercise of local democracy.”


The City of Minneapolis, like many cities around the country, has the right to exercise broad “home rule” powers over public health, safety, and the general welfare of its residents. In Minnesota, cities have used their broad powers to enact laws pertaining to liquor licensing and regulation,[1] the production of milk and milk standards,[2] the manufacture, possession, sale, and use of explosives,[3] bicycle registration and operation,[4] animal control,[5] housing conditions,[6] food safety and selling,[7] movie theater operation,[8] and much more. Within this well-established local authority, Minneapolis acted to guarantee paid sick time and raise the minimum wage.

100,000 Minneapolis Workers Gain Paid Sick Time

The Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a paid sick time law on May 27, 2016, extending paid sick time to approximately 100,000 workers in the city who previously lacked even a single paid sick day.[9] In businesses with 6 or more employees, workers are entitled under the law to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year. Workers in businesses with 5 or fewer workers can earn up to 48 hours of unpaid, job-protected sick time per year.[10] The Minneapolis ordinance allows workers to use this sick time for personal or family health needs (including illness, medical care, and preventive needs), to respond to domestic violence, and to care for a family member whose school or place of care is closed due to an emergency, including inclement weather. Following passage of Minneapolis’s paid sick time ordinance, St. Paul and Duluth also passed similar protections.[11]

A growing number of cities and counties across the country are acting to guarantee workers a minimum amount of paid sick time for personal and family health needs. In 2006, San Francisco voters adopted the country’s first paid sick time law.[12] Since then, more than 35 cities and counties—ranging from Dallas and Pittsburgh to Chicago and Montgomery County, Maryland—have passed paid sick time ordinances, while 11 states (plus Washington, D.C.) have passed statewide paid sick time policies.[13]

A Raise for 71,000 Working People in Minneapolis

The Minneapolis minimum wage ordinance passed by the city council on July 1, 2017 will gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022 for employees of large businesses (more than 100 employees), and by 2024 for employees of small businesses (100 or fewer employees).[14] About 71,000 Minneapolis workers, or about 23 percent of workers in the city, will see their wages increase under the new law.[15]

Addressing the consequences of low wages through local minimum wage laws is not new for cities. The City of Baltimore was one of the first cities in the country to adopt a local minimum wage in 1964.[16]

Since the Fight for $15 began in November 2012, more than 40 cities and counties,[17] and more than 20 states have adopted minimum wage increases.[18] These cities and counties include places like Santa Fe; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Portland, Maine; and Flagstaff, Arizona.[19] More than 20 cities or counties have adopted a $15 minimum wage.[20]


[1] See, e.g., Minneapolis, Minn., Charter art. IV, § 4.1(f); Minneapolis, Minn., Code § 267.1380; Minneapolis, Minn., Code tit. 14; St. Paul, Minn., Code tit. XXIV; Duluth, Minn., Code ch. 8.

[2] Rochester, Minn., Code ch. 142

[3] St. Cloud, Minn., Code ch. IV, § 433.

[4] See, e.g., Brooklyn Park, MN tit. VII, ch. 73; Duluth, Minn., Code ch. 9.

[5] See, e.g., Minneapolis, Minn., Code tit. 4; St. Cloud, Minn., Code ch. X, § 1040; Brooklyn Park, Minn., Code tit. IX, ch. 92; St. Paul, Minn., Code tit. XX.

[6] See, e.g., Minneapolis, Minn. Code, tit. 12; St. Paul, Minn., Code tit. VI; Duluth, Minn., Code ch. 29A.

[7] See, e.g., Minneapolis, Minn. Code tit. 10; St. Paul, Minn., Code tit. XXI, ch. 208; Brooklyn Park, Minn., Code, tit. XI, ch. 114; St. Cloud, Minn. Code, ch. IV, § 440.

[8] See, e.g., Rochester, Minn. Code, ch. 110; Brooklyn Park, Minn., Code tit. IX, ch. 113.

[9] See, Eduardo Hernandez, Paid Sick Days in Minneapolis: Lessons on Implementation and Enforcement, CLASP, Aug. 2019, https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/publications/2019/10/2019_Minneapolispaidsickdays.pdf.

[10]Minneapolis, Minn., Code § 40.10 et seq.; See also, A Better Balance, Overview of Paid Sick Time Laws in the U.S.: Minneapolis, Oct. 7, 2019, https://www.abetterbalance.org/paid-sick-time-laws/minnesota/minneapolis-mn/ (last viewed Nov. 5, 2019).

[11] St. Paul, Minn., Code § 233.01 et seq.; Duluth, Minn., City Code ch. 29E

[12] San Francisco, Cal., Code ch. 12W; see, e.g., City and County of San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, https://sfgov.org/olse/paid-sick-leave-ordinance-pslo#Overview (last viewed Nov. 5, 2019).

[13] See, e.g., A Better Balance, Interactive Overview of Paid Sick Time Laws in the United States, https://www.abetterbalance.org/paid-sick-time-laws/ (last viewed Nov. 5, 2019).

[14] Minneapolis, Minn., Code § 40.320 et seq.

[15] Minneapolis.gov, City Council passes municipal minimum wage ordinance, http://news.minneapolismn.gov/2017/06/30/city-council-passes-municipal-minimum-wage-ordinance/ (last viewed Feb. 12, 2019).

[16] City Council of Baltimore v. Sitnick, 255 A.2d 376 (Md. Ct. App. 1969).

[17] Several of these local minimum wage laws were subsequently invalidated by preemption legislation adopted by the state legislature. These include: Birmingham, Alabama (preempted by Ala. Code § 25-7-41; St. Louis, Missouri (preempted by Mo. H.B. 1193, 1194 (Mar. 2017)); Linn County, Iowa, Polk County, Iowa, and Wapello County, Iowa (preempted by Ia. H.F. 295 (Mar. 2017)); and Miami Beach, Florida (preempted by a 2003 state law, § 218.077, Fla. Stat.). Of the more than 40 local minimum wage laws enacted recently, only the ordinances passed in Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky, were found preempted by the state’s minimum wage law. Kentucky Restaurant Association v. Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government, 501 S.W.3d 425, 426 (Ky. 2016).

[18] National Employment Law Project, Impact of the Fight for $15: $68 Billion in Raises, 22 Million Workers (Nov. 2018), https://s27147.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/Data-Brief-Impact-Fight-for-15-2018.pdf.

[19] Raisetheminimumwage.com, Minimum Wage by State, https://raisetheminimumwage.com/minimum-wage-state/ (last viewed Nov. 8, 2019).

[20] List on file with author.

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About the Authors

Rebecca Dixon

Areas of expertise:
  • Occupational Segregation,
  • Program Management,
  • Unemployment Insurance,
  • Workplace Equity

NELP is led by President and Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Dixon. Rebecca is a respected national leader in federal workers’ rights advocacy and is in great demand for her thought leadership on issues of labor and racial, gender, and economic justice.

Sherry Leiwant

Co-founder and co-president, A Better Balance.

Kim Haddow

Director, Local Solutions Support Center

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