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St. Paul to vote this week on a $15 minimum wage, with no exemption for tipped workers

November 11, 2018

The St. Paul City Council is expected to follow in Minneapolis’ footsteps Wednesday and approve a citywide $15 minimum wage without an exemption for tipped workers.

Mayor Melvin Carter said in his inaugural address that he intended to implement a $15 minimum wage “as soon as possible.” In the months since, city leaders have met with workers and business owners, activists have marched through downtown streets and hundreds of people have packed into City Hall to share their views.

Council members said they’re looking forward to getting the ordinance passed.

“Hopefully, it will be a celebratory moment for us all,” said Council Member Rebecca Noecker. “We’ve done the hard work, we’ve asked the right questions and I think this is an ordinance St. Paul can be proud of.”

According to the city, more than 56,000 St. Paul workers will get a raise as a result of the ordinance, which will require employers to start phasing in the wage hike in 2020. People who work for the city or at large corporations will start making $15 an hour on July 1, 2022; those at the smallest businesses won’t see that wage until July 1, 2027.

The ordinance is based on public input and recommendations from the nonpartisan Citizens League, which released a 446-page report this summer on how a minimum wage hike would affect St. Paul.

About 200 people attended a Nov. 7 public hearing on the ordinance, and much of the testimony focused on whether there should be an exemption for tipped workers. Though some council members said they would support an exemption, the ordinance does not include one.

“Our goal is to raise the minimum wage in the city of St. Paul, and we didn’t think a tip penalty/carveout was good for workers,” said Council Member Chris Tolbert.

Council President Amy Brendmoen said she talked to restaurant owners after the public hearing, and she told them the council can modify the ordinance in the future if need be.

“We’re moving forward here,” she said, “but that doesn’t mean there will never be another opportunity to look at this again.”

In coming months, council members are planning to introduce a separate policy that will beef up city enforcement of the minimum wage, as well as of the earned sick time ordinance that took effect last year.

Emma Nelson • 612-673-4509

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