FARGO-Local political activist and Fargo City Commission candidate Lenny Tweeden is asking the commission to adopt a law that over time would increase the city's minimum wage to $12 an hour.
The Fargo City Commission voted 4-1 on Monday, June 4, to receive and file Tweeden's proposal, which would hike the minimum wage to $10 an hour Sept. 1 and raise it 50 cents per hour annually until Sept. 1, 2022, when it would reach $12.
"It went better than I thought it would. I went in anticipating being shot down," Tweeden said.
The issue now goes to the Community Development Committee to be studied. Commissioner John Strand is that panel's chairman.
"I'm glad that somebody is asking us to have the discussion," Strand said, adding that he wants to see the latest data on the number of people in the city living below the poverty line or who have difficulty finding housing or putting food on the table.
Tweeden said he wants Fargo to follow the lead of Minneapolis, which has already decided to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour, and St. Paul, which appears on track to follow.
Commissioner Tony Gehrig didn't like Tweeden's proposal, saying it would cost young people jobs and valuable work experience. "The market has spoken. If you're worth $15 an hour, you'll get $15 an hour," Gehrig said.
Commissioner Dave Piepkorn warned of "unintended consequences like in Minneapolis," where he said servers are losing jobs. He cautioned that Fargo should learn from the experiences of other cities.
Commissioner Tony Grindberg was the lone vote against receiving and filing the minimum wage proposal.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which is mirrored in North Dakota. An effort to raise the minimum wage in the last legislative session was voted down.
Tweeden said Congress hasn't raised the federal minimum wage since 2009 and that 29 states have a higher minimum wage.
In North Dakota, a group of activists is seeking a Fair Wage Act to raise the state minimum wage to $15 an hour by petitioning to have a measure put on the November ballot.
Supporters propose 33 percent annual increases to the minimum wage over three years to reach $15 per hour. After that, it would be adjusted to follow increases in the consumer price index.
A month ago, North Dakota Fair Wage Act of 2018 Chairman Scott Nodland warned in a Facebook post that unless more volunteers turned out, the drive would fail to collect the signatures needed by July 8 to get the measure on the ballot.
"Projecting the current rate of signature collection-the effort is certain to fail," Nodland wrote.
However, an administrator of the group's Facebook page said the petition drive has not been abandoned and remains ongoing.