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Court Upholds Louisville’s Minimum Wage Hike

Minimum wage increase supporters at a recent Metro Council meeting.
Minimum wage increase supporters at a recent Metro Council meeting.

An effort launched by industry groups to stop Louisville’s minimum wage law from going into effect was struck down by Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman on Monday.

Louisville Metro Council passed an ordinance in December that gradually raises the city's minimum wage in the city to $9 an hour by July 2017.

The city was the first metro area in the South to put a minimum wage increase into law.

The ordinance starts getting phased-in starting this Wednesday.

In February, the Kentucky Restaurant Association, the Kentucky Retail Federation and Packaging Unlimited in Louisville, filed a lawsuit asking the judge to stop the law, as well as settle a legal question over whether the council had the authority to raise wages in the first place.

Brent Baughman, an attorney representing the industry groups, argued that metro government doesn’t have the legal authority to set a separate minimum wage higher than the one established by state law.

However, Judge McDonald-Burkman disagreed.

According to the court order, “Louisville Metro is a consolidated local government per KRS 67C.101 with ‘all the powers an privileges that cities of the first class and their counties are, or may hereafter be, authorized to exercise under the Constitution and the general laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, including but not limited to those powers granted to cities of the first class and their counties under their respective home rule powers.’”

Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement that he is pleased with the court’s ruling.

“The Metro Council and I took this step last summer to provide working families a higher minimum wage because we know that many struggle to pay for housing, food, clothing and medical care,” he said.  “Today's favorable ruling will have a real impact on many Louisville families."

This ruling could also have an impact on whether other Kentucky cities enact similar laws. Advocates have said they are closely watching Louisville's case because they want to know if judges think local government's have the power to change wage laws, which means this could also decide whether local governments in Kentucky have the authority to pass all sorts of ordinances.

Attorneys with the plaintiffs in this case did not immediately return calls for comment or whether they will appeal the decision.

You can read the entire ruling here: