Red Wing Minnesota Trash Hauling

Challenging Red Wing’s Anti-Competitive Trash Cartel
Paul's Industrial Garage and Gibson Sanitation v. City of Red Wing 

IJ-MN Director Lee McGrath and clients, from left, Dale Gibson of Gibson Sanitation and Paul Larson and Dave Deml of Paul's Industrial Garage.

The City of Red Wing, Minn., has unconstitutionally turned its local government into a special interest protected from competition. 

On August 28, 2006, the City Council adopted an ordinance that forces all private commercial trash haulers to use the City incinerator for 10 years, effective January 1, 2007, as a condition of doing business in Red Wing.  The incinerator has been burning up taxpayer money since its inception and the ordinance is nothing more than an unconstitutional attempt to prevent the inefficient government boondoggle from facing much-needed competition.

Local haulers, Paul Larson and Dale Gibson, are not going along with the City’s plan.  They built their hauling businesses into successful enterprises by focusing on what is best for their customers.  Larson and Gibson both believe that the citizens of Red Wing should be free to choose low cost, high quality services, rather than being forced to subsidize the City’s incinerator.

The City cannot forbid the exporting of trash any more than it can stop the exporting of its famous Red Wing shoes or the importing of Wisconsin cheese.  The Minnesota Supreme Court and local courts have ruled that city governments like Red Wing cannot impose controls that discriminate against the interstate movement of trash.  Red Wing and other cities cannot ignore these cases and they cannot ignore law.

On May 31, 2013, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a decision where it failed to answer the ultimate question of whether the government needs a warrant backed by evidence to enter a tenant’s home.  Instead, it ruled the question was not properly before it, leaving it for another day.  However, Justice Paul Anderson authored a concurring opinion where he stated that when the court does answer the question it should rule that warrants that are not backed by evidence—like those Red Wing has repeatedly applied for—are unconstitutional.  Since that ruling Red Wing has not decided whether to go forward to again seek these warrants.

Essential Background


Background on this case

Client Photo

Latest Release: Haulers Now Free to Work in Red Wing; City responds to Institute for Justice lawsuit by offering licenses to clients (May 17, 2007)

B-roll video of incinerator

Client Audio

Launch Release: Entrepreneurs Join the Institute for Justice Minnesota Chapter In Challenge to Red Wing’s Trash Monopoly (December 6, 2006)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

The injunction against the City of Red Wing from implementing its trash ordinance on January 1, 2007


Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:


December 6, 2006

Court Filed:


U.S. District Court in Minneapolis

Complaint Filed:


December 6, 2006

Preliminary Injunction:

December 22, 2006

City Amended Ordinance:

May 1, 2007

City Issued Licenses:

May 15, 2007. Victory!


Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Preliminary Injunction Granted; City of Red Wing Cannot Violate Civil Rights Before Court Reviews Lawsuit (December 22, 2006)

Statewide Study On Government Barriers to Entrepreneurship in Minnesota






Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: Fighting Small-Town Tyranny in Minnesota, Liberty & Law (February 2007)

Op-ed: Lee McGrath: Businesses are free to ship shoes, cheese and trash, The Red Wing Republican-Eagle, December 8, 2006 (1.2Mb)

Article: Red Wing Sued Again, The Red Wing Republican-Eagle, December 6, 2006 (1.2Mb)

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