Kentucky Supreme Court strikes down minimum wage ordinance


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – A minimum wage increase approved by the Louisville Metro Council has been struck down by Kentucky’s Supreme Court.

In a 6-1 ruling Thursday, court said the city’s minimum wage ordinance is “invalid and unenforceable.”

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Louisville’s council voted nearly two years ago to increase workers’ wages to $9 per hour, phasing in the increases. Louisville became the first Kentucky city to increase minimum wages above the federal level of $7.25 an hour.

Louisville’s ordinance was challenged in court by the Kentucky Restaurant Association, the Kentucky Retail Federation and local employer Packaging Unlimited.

In writing for the court’s majority, Justice Bill Cunningham said the ordinance’s conflict with state law is “precisely the type of ‘conflict’ prohibited by the state Constitution. His opinion drew a dissent from Justice Samuel T. Wright III.

Susan Straub with Mayor Jim Gray’s office, issued a statement on the decision, saying, “This opinion effectively prevents cities, including Lexington, from increasing the minimum wage. Lexington’s local minimum wage ordinance has been invalidated.”

The current minimum wage in Lexington was $8.20 per hour.  I will now go back to $7.25 an hour.  Individual businesses will decide whether they will cut pay for minimum wage employees.

Councilmember Jennifer Mossotti, who pushed to raise the minimum wage also released a statement, included below in full:

“I am deeply disappointed with the Kentucky Supreme Court ruling striking down Louisville’s minimum wage law which also invalidates Lexington’s recent minimum wage increase but I certainly accept the decision. The unfortunate final consequence is that many full-time workers will continue to live in poverty.

“This decision, in essence, means that many of those less fortunate workers in Louisville and in Lexington will continue to struggle to pay for basic needs such as housing, transportation, child care, food and other essentials.

“Today’s ruling will potentially undo the small financial gain that many low-wage employees in both cities had enjoyed in recent months. I am hopeful that employers in Louisville and Lexington who had adjusted the hourly wage for those affected individuals will ultimately choose to not reverse the move.

“I remain convinced that increasing the minimum wage is the right thing to do in an effort to decrease income inequality and I believe the dialogue will certainly continue at both the state and federal levels which will lead to an increase in the minimum wage that benefits millions of Americans. It is past the time for the Kentucky General Assembly to act to increase the minimum wage.”

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.