After several lively hearings and amendments on Wednesday night, the Minneapolis City Council passed the 2020 budget. After passing a landmark wage theft ordinance, concerns were raised by workers and community organizations about the cities capacity and commitment to enforce the law.

In response, the council amended the budget to create new staff positions in the labor standards division of the city’s Department of Civil Rights which handles the increased workload which has a growing workload due to the wage theft ordinance.

The amendment reads:

“Bender moved to amend the Mayor’s 2020 Recommended Budget in the General Fund for the Civil Rights and CPED departments on an ongoing basis by increasing the expense budget in the General Fund for the Civil Rights Department by $90,000 ongoing for an additional Labor Standards investigator (1 FTE) and $69,000 ongoing for collaborative enforcement of the City’s Wage Theft ordinance, and reducing the ongoing General Fund expense budget in the CPED Department by $159,000 associated with the vacant Transit Oriented Development director position.”

In response South Minneapolis based worker center Centro de Trabajadores Unidos (CTUL) en Lucha released the following statement:

We are pleased to see that the Minneapolis City Council is investing in our community by adding ONE additional wage theft investigator in the 2020 budget and further investing in community contracts for outreach, education, and enforcement to make sure wage theft ordinances have a real impact on workers’ lives. 

Thank you to the workers who stood up and raised their voices. Your bravery and power is felt by ALL workers in Minneapolis. We also want to thank Minneapolis City Councilmembers for your partnership in prioritizing these budget items and lifting workers’ voices. 

Wage theft is a rampant problem in Minneapolis and disproportionately affects low-wage black and brown workers. A stable income, stable housing, and access to resources is what makes our communities safe and we are happy to see Minneapolis is moving in this direction.

As we celebrate this victory, we also continue to stand with Reclaim the Block in their demands to divest from police and invest in community prevention measures, like enforcement of wage theft, investing in homelessness services, funding solutions to the opioid crisis at the scale of the crisis itself, and more. Instead of criminalizing vulnerable people, we must find alternatives to policing and continue to invest in our communities. 

CTUL celebrates this as a victory for low-wage workers of Minneapolis and shows us the power of workers’ voices when we come together and tell our stories. There is more work to be done and we hope for your continued support in making a truly safe and just Minneapolis for all. 

The community group Reclaim the Block (RB)had the most vocal presence over the last several weeks as budget discussions evolved. Their demands include investment in programs like mental health response, solutions to the opioid crisis and youth homelessness programming instead of continuing to grow MPD’s budget.

RB argues that the City Council approved a budget that has had almost no changes to MPD’s bottom line since Mayor Frey drafted it. 

“So many of us were thrilled two years ago when we thought we had just elected one of the most progressive city councils in the country,” said testifier Kristen Wiseman of Reclaim the Block. “Being progressive means making hard political decisions to move us forward, not being stuck in the status quo. You all aren’t leading us forward progressively—you’re not even following the lead of your constituents who spoke up last week.” 

RB and supporters demanded that Council Members commit to working with the community in coming years toward more substantial change. 

“Our city is ready and we deserve better,” Sophia Benrud of Black Visions Collective testified. “Show us what real progressive leadership looks like. We’ll be here.”

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