Workers protest changes to city’s Working Families Agenda

Coalition of low-wage workers press for a vote on fair scheduling proposal

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Hundreds of workers and their advocates marched through City Hall on Thursday afternoon to protest city leaders’ decision to drop the fair scheduling proposal from the Working Families Agenda.

The agenda is now focused on a proposal mandating all employers in the city offer workers paid sick time. Workers at companies with fewer than 21 employees would accrue a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick time a year while workers at businesses with 21 or more workers could earn a maximum of 72 hours a year. The City Council is expected to hold a public hearing on the proposal in November.

Marchers walked silently as they entered the building with their fists in the air and then gathered outside of Mayor Betsy Hodges’ office to criticize her decision to drop the measure in face of intense criticism from business leaders. A march organizer said it was meant to symbolize that “City Hall has silenced workers.” 

The silence ended when they arrived at Hodges’ office and then gathered outside of City Council offices to share stories and express outrage and frustration over the decision to drop the fair scheduling measure. City Council Members Cam Gordon (Ward 2) and Lisa Bender (Ward 10) joined them to show their support for the workers. They also pledged to keep working on policy solutions to help them.

Bender said many people lack awareness about the challenges facing low-wage workers. “Poverty is invisible in our city,” she said. 

Mike Griffin, field director for Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, called on city leaders to recommit to passing fair scheduling legislation this year. The proposal would have required employers to give workers 14-days notice of their schedules and provide one hour of predictability pay for all employer-initiated changes after the schedule is posted, among other things.  

“We have two economies in Minneapolis, where some people have access to good jobs with paid sick time and a set schedule, and some people don’t,” Griffin said. “And often the people who don’t are black. We have been silenced for too long. The people in City Hall can help.”

Gordon also said he’d like to see the conversation continue on fair scheduling this year.

Lena K. Gardner of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis questioned why the voices of 80 business leaders affiliated with the Minnesota Business Partnership outweigh those of 6,000 people who signed petitions supporting fair scheduling that were delivered to Council members. 

Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP, told workers to stay committed to their cause. “If you want justice, you have to demand it,” she said.

She also criticized the mayor and other city leaders, suggesting they have put business interests ahead of the city’s low-wage workers, who are predominately people of color. 

“They need to stop yielding to the voices of corporations and start yielding to the voices of workers,” she said. 

Hodges met with a couple of Target Field temp workers who have raised concerns about working conditions, including having to wait in long lines for shift assignments without pay.

The debate at City Hall will continue tomorrow. The Workforce Fairness Coalition, a group of business associations led by the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, is planning to gather at City Hall at 9 a.m. to discuss their concerns about the paid sick time proposal. 

The workers — part of the #MplsWorks campaign — have been organizing for months and holding events throughout the city to gather support for the Working Families Agenda, arguing it’s crucial to address racial disparities in the city.

Hodges first outlined her vision for the agenda in April during her State of the City address.  

In a statement released yesterday, she said she’s committed to continue working with workers and businesses to find solutions to scheduling challenges. 

“Let me be clear: the inability of too many low-income, hourly, and part-time workers to plan their lives predictably in order to get ahead is still a problem in our city. We should not stop looking for a solution until it stops being a problem,” she said.