By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thousands of workers in the state’s largest city might be celebrating the holiday a little early.

Following years of debate, the Minneapolis City Council voted Friday to increase the minimum wage to 15-dollars an hour. It applies to most employees in the city, even those who earn tips. Companies now get five to seven years to phase in that pay hike.

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Tears of joy from organizers who spent years trying to raise the minimum wage.

“Because of the leadership of low wage workers, fast food workers, servers and workers across the city we have now won $15 an hour now,” Veronica Mendez Moore said.

Tipped workers like bar tenders and servers will collect tip money on top of the base hourly wage. Only one council member voted against the measure.

“What I’m concerned about are small businesses, independent businesses, minority and immigrant-owned businesses and their ability to sustain $15 an hour,” said Councilman Blong Yang.

Blong Yang represents north Minneapolis. He is concerned a wage increase will force some small businesses to close.

“It’s a good thing,” Sammie McDowell, owner of Sammie’s Avenue Eatery, said. “I want people to make a livable wage. I want people to afford their rent, and their car notes, and all those things.”

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McDowell fought for the increase, but says he has concerns.

“It will increase our prices, so hopefully our customers will bear with us on this movement up,” McDowell said. “Since that’s what the people want, we will have to comply.”

McDowell hires from the community and his workers make $12 an hour. He hopes increasing wages and food prices do not send his customers out of the community to eat.

Organizers and celebrating workers believe the new minimum wage is a victory everyone.

“We know the folks who are earning the least amount of money per hour tend to be the ones to spend a higher percentage of their income,” Ron Harris, a policy advisor for City Council member Lisa Bender, said. “So if that group of people is going to get that much of a raise, they are going to spend it on these local businesses.”

Right now, the minimum wage is between $7.75 and $9.50 an hour. Friday’s vote makes Minneapolis the first city in the Midwest to approve a $15 an hour minimum wage.

Organizers say they will celebrate Friday and prepare to take their fight to State Capitol.

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Seattle, meanwhile, voted in April 2015 to gradually raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour, too, but new research found lower-paid workers in the city ended up losing $125 a month. Researchers say that’s in part due to companies cutting the number of hours those employees could work.

Reg Chapman