Report: 42 percent of city’s workers lack paid sick time

About 42 percent of Minneapolis workers (123,000 people) lack paid sick time, according to a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Fewer than one-third of full-time workers earning $15,000 or less annually have sick time compared to more than 80 percent of people making more than $65,000 a year.

Hispanic workers are also the least likely to have sick time when compared to other racial/ethnic groups. The breakdown of workers without the benefit is as follows: 68 percent of Hispanics, 49 percent of blacks, 42 percent of Asians and 37 percent of whites.

State and local government workers are much more likely to have paid sick days compared to those in the private sector — 78 percent compared to 55 percent.

The nonprofit estimated the data based on an analysis of government sources, including the 2011-2013 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the 2011-2013 American Community Survey.

Jessica Milli, study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said: “Our data indicates that the workers in Minneapolis who are most economically vulnerable are also the least likely to have access to paid sick days off and the least able to afford being sick. There is also substantial variation to access by occupation, race and number of hours worked.”

The Minneapolis City Council voted on Oct. 23 to establish a 15-member committee to study and make recommendations on earned sick time policies for workers. The committee is expected to report back to the Council on Feb. 24.

In a conference call with reporters, Mary Einspahr, a Minneapolis resident who is a part-time retail worker and University of Minnesota student, said she wants to see city leaders pass a sick time ordinance.

“I’ve had to go without food when I’ve fallen sick in the past because missing a day or two of work to get better meant I couldn’t afford to go grocery shopping,” she said.

Greta Bergstrom, communications director of TakeAction Minnesota, an organization lobbying the city to move ahead with a paid sick time policy, said it’s a matter of equity.

“Workplace policies haven’t kept up with the realities of working families in Minneapolis, especially workers of color,” she said. “People shouldn’t have to choose between earning a paycheck and their health or the additional economic stress that comes from taking that time off and having it eat into one’s future hours scheduled and earnings.”