City leaders, business owners react to Metro Council minimum wag - WDRB 41 Louisville News

City leaders, business owners react to Metro Council minimum wage vote

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A raise for Louisville's lowest paid workers may not be a done deal. The Metro Council passed a $9 minimum wage Thursday night, but Mayor Greg Fischer expects a legal fight.

Jason Brown owns Brownies The Shed Grille and Bar.

"I'm lucky enough to where I've had employees for a long time," Brown said.

He has two locations, 30 workers, and after Thursday's vote by the Metro Council, he knows he will likely have to give some raises.

"Obviously you have to adapt to that in other ways besides payroll, and in my case, it is food, beer and liquor," he said.

A pint may go up a few pennies, a burger by $1, perhaps, but Brown says his workers' jobs are safe.

"We've got to quit looking at the negative things," he said. "There are positive things too."

Greater Louisville Inc. (GLI) fears not all business owners will react like Brown.

"We just know that this will lead to unemployment," said Sarah Davasher-Wisdom, vice president of government affairs for GLI.

As the city's chamber of commerce, GLI is now lobbying the mayor to block the minimum wage increase.

"We hope the mayor will keep his commitment to veto anything over $8.75, because 9.00 is not just a quarter over $8.75, because the $9.00 will include CPI," Davasher-Wisdom said.

CPI is the Consumer Price Index. 

It was part of the compromise. Some Metro Council members wanted minimum wage to jump to $10.10 an hour over the next three years, but when the Mayor threatened a veto they settled on $9 with the caveat that the wage floor be tied to inflation in the future.

Mayor Fischer says he will sign the bill if it holds.

"Well, they'll be a legal challenge against the city as to whether or not we have the right to do this, so that will take its course," Fischer said. "But again, on this, I was getting criticism from the far left that I'm not going high enough, criticism from the far right that we're doing anything at all. But there was a broad consensus in the middle that something needed to be done and we tried to strike that balance."

Will the ordinance be challenged?

Democratic State Representative Steve Riggs agrees that a lawsuit will likely come. 

"We have state laws in place, and we've never given authority to cities to establish a minimum wage," he told WDRB. 

Riggs co-chairs the committee on local government. Unlike Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell, who gave the green light to move forward, Riggs says Metro Council does not have the power increase minimum wage. Riggs says a city or county can't pass an ordinance if it's in conflict with the state law. 

"The state law also says that if there's a comprehensive scheme of legislation dealing with the subject, then the city can't do anything about it," he said."We have a beyond comprehensive scheme of legislation already dealing with wage and hour laws." 

Meanwhile, low wage workers rejoicing throughout the city.

"At least it's going up," said Ivan English, a minimum wage worker. "Any progress is good progress."

The first increase is set for July. The minimum wage boosts to $7.75 an hour.

For now, minimum wage employees and business owners hang in the balance as people question whether the city had the right to raise minimum wage in the first place. 

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