The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously Friday to establish a 15-member committee to study and make recommendations on potential earned sick time and paid time off protections for workers.
The Workplace Regulations Partnership is scheduled to report back on its findings Feb. 24. Its members — three appointed by Mayor Betsy Hodges, two City Council President Barb Johnson and 10 the other members of the Council — are expected to meet for the first time next month.
The partnership’s members will include low-wage employees, representatives of organized labor, both large and small employers and representatives of business groups and associations — although the motion doesn’t specify in what proportions. The group will elect its own chair.
The idea for the partnership grew out of Hodges’ Working Families Agenda, a proposal that would’ve required all businesses to offer employees paid sick leave and to set employee schedules at least 28 days in advance. The scheduling component was dropped after aggressive pushback from Minneapolis business owners.
Over the objections of members Lisa Bender, Elizabeth Glidden and Cam Gordon, the Council also voted to cancel a Nov. 4 public hearing on the policies.
Council Member Linea Palmisano (Ward 13) said the city should take the time to tailor the policy to go after “bad actors” and to not harm businesses with healthy employee-employer relationships.
“The reality is our small business owners are terrified by these proposals,” Palmisano said.
Bender (Ward 10) said she’d spent hours meeting with small business owners, and objected to the assertion that their feedback was being ignored.
Several motions to amend the shape and mission of the Workplace Regulations Partnership were also voted down.
A motion offered by Bender would have reserved seven of the 15 seats on the partnership for workers, including low-wage employees and union representatives. Another seven would’ve gone to employers, and one seat would’ve been reserved for a representative with expertise in public health.
The Council president, who represents Ward 4, was among several members who expressed concern about creating a dynamic of antagonism.
“Partnership shouldn’t be seven people voting against seven people with a tiebreaker in the mix,” Johnson said.
Ward 9 Council Member Alondra Cano then moved an amendment to give the committee two co-chairs, one representing employers and the other employees. Again the motion failed after other council members expressed concerns about creating an employers-versus-employees atmosphere.
“I don’t think we should set up a dynamic where people are at odds with one another,” Goodman said.
A third amendment, offered by Council Member Andrew Johnson (Ward 12), would’ve shortened the timeline for the partnership to report its findings. That motion also failed.
The partnership group is expected to gather public input on their policy recommendations through focus groups, listening sessions, meetings with experts and other forms of outreach.
Matt Perry, president of the Southwest Business Association, said the group is pleased with the Council’s decision to move ahead with a partnership group to study sick leave policies.
“With additional time and a more collaborative approach, we can incorporate more input creating a more sound approach,” Perry said. “We have been advocating for a workgroup that includes small business owners and their employees to review and advise on workplace regulations. The SWBA believes significantly more input from those affected, both employer and employee, and an analysis of impacts is needed for any policy outcomes this far reaching.”
Leaders of the #MplsWorks campaign, a coalition of advocates for low-wage workers, issued a statement critical of the Council’s actions on Friday: “Minneapolis voters need to question the leadership and decision-making skills of the Minneapolis City Council. Why would such an obviously popular, well-tested policy solution like Earned Sick and Safe Time, be put into eternal delay and study mode? Why would fair scheduling policies and protections against wage theft be left on the cutting room floor?”
Meanwhile, the Workforce Fairness Coalition, a group of business associations led by the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce’s President Todd Klingel, commended the Council.
“The City Council made the appropriate decision to delay formal action on the ‘ill conceived’ workplace mandate agenda and instead move forward with an approach that is more inclusive and transparent,” he said. “… It took a citywide, grassroots effort bringing more voices to this conversation to bring about the changes enacted today. Thank you to every member of the greater Minneapolis community who stood up to be heard on this important issue. The Coalition and our members will continue to engage in this process following future council action and will closely monitor the work of the new partnership group formed to study the issue.”
— Sarah McKenzie contributed to this report