Ellison hears from small biz owners on citywide sick leave

Eat Street small business owners say they're ready to work on a paid sick time ordinance

Rep. Keith Ellison, center, leaving GYST Fermentation Bar where he discussed citywide paid sick leave with owner Ky Guse. Credit: Dylan Thomas

WHITTIER — Rep. Keith Ellison and two City Council members met Monday morning with Minneapolis small business owners who support a city ordinance requiring paid sick leave for employees.

That mandate was a pillar of Mayor Betsy Hodges’ Working Families Agenda, which also called for a so-called “fair-scheduling” rules giving employees advance notice of shifts and compensation for last-minute schedule changes. The proposal met considerable pushback this fall, prompting the Council to drop its discussion of fair scheduling and take slower and more deliberate approach to crafting sick time rules.

“As a small business owner, I hope we can come together and at least start conversations,” Ky Guse, owner of GYST Fermentation Bar, said. Guse acknowledged the proposed changes “can be scary” for business owners, but added that it was time for the city to take “bold steps.”

GYST was Ellison’s first stop on a brief walking tour that took him to two other Whittier-neighborhood small businesses, B Resale and Glam Doll Donuts. The District 5 DFLer was joined by Minneapolis Council members Cam Gordon (Ward 2) and Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8) for the event, which was organized by Main Street Alliance of Minnesota, the state’s chapter of a national small-business policy group.

B Resale owner Allison Bross said she already offers paid sick time to her small staff. Bross relies on three regular employees to keep the doors open while she raises her young son.

“Without them, the store wouldn’t be here right now,” she said.

Next door to Bross’ shop, representatives from about one dozen local business were gathered in the back of Glam Doll Donuts. One of the store’s owners, Teresa Fox, said she understood from experience the importance of paid sick leave; having worked as a waitress for 17 years before opening Glam Doll, she never had the opportunity to earn paid time off.

The gathering at Glam Doll included several small business owners serving on the Workplace Regulations Partnership, a 15-member committee tasked with developing recommendations on a paid sick leave ordinance. Its members, selected by Mayor Hodges, City Council President Barb Johnson and members of the Council, were announced last week.

One of the Council’s nominees, Point Acupressure owner Molly Glasgow, said they aim to craft a policy that will work for small businesses. Several of the other business representatives present said they hoped Minneapolis’ efforts would pave the way for a statewide sick-leave rule.

Sarah Piepenburg, who owns the Vinaigrette shops in Minneapolis and Excelsior, said she’d implement the policy at both shops if an ordinance passes in Minneapolis.

“I’m glad were on the cusp of starting somewhere,” Piepenburg said.

Ellison said the debate over a citywide paid sick leave ordinance shouldn’t pit employees against employers.

“These folks here know an employee is not a cost to be minimized, it’s an asset to help build a business,” he said.

Glam Doll Donuts co-owner Teresa Fox said she never had paid sick leave during the 17 years she worked as a waitrees. Photo by Dylan Thomas