Work group tasked with drafting paid sick time ordinance by May

Stephanie Gasca, a community organizer with CTUL, makes the case for a paid sick time policy at City Hall on Wednesday. Photo by Sarah McKenzie

The Minneapolis City Council voted Friday to create a new work group to respond to recommendations for a mandatory paid sick time policy in the city and report back to the Council by May 5 with a proposed ordinance.

The staff directions, authored by Council President Barb Johnson and Council Member Andrew Johnson, also called on the group to develop a plan for implementing and enforcing the ordinance, among other things.

The city-appointed, 19-member Workplace Partnership Group presented its final report advocating for a new paid sick time ordinance to the Council on Wednesday.

The partnership group recommended mandating a paid sick time policy for employers with at least four Minneapolis workers. Employees who work at least 80 hours a year in the city would be able to accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employers could establish an annual cap of 48 hours of paid sick time for each worker.

The group also suggested small businesses with 24 or fewer employees have an additional six months to implement the policy. They also advised the city to have the ordinance go into effect at least six months after passed by the Council.

Several members of the partnership group outlined their support for the proposal before the Council meeting on Wednesday.

Ron Harris, a community organizer with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, said the group is proud of the process it followed in coming up with its final report. It held 14 community listening sessions and gathered feedback from about 550 people throughout the city.

He said the city has a “golden opportunity” to make a big impact in people’s lives. An estimated 120,000 workers lack access to paid sick days in Minneapolis.

“There is still a crisis in this city where 42 percent of the people working in Minneapolis still have to choose between the health of their families or receiving a paycheck,” Harris said. “We are firm believers that this is wrong and this has no place in our city.”

Minneapolis Downtown Council CEO Steve Cramer was the one partnership group member to vote it against the final recommendations at the group’s final meeting Monday.

In a minority statement submitted to the Council, he noted that business leaders have concerns about Minneapolis enacting the ordinance on its own and being an outlier in the region. He also argued that there is insufficient evidence to suggest a paid sick ordinance will have a big impact on addressing the underlying issue of “poverty compounded by growing income inequality” facing many workers.

The Council’s actions come as the City of St. Paul is also studying a paid sick time ordinance and DFL legislators in the House have proposed legislation for family paid leave by establishing a new insurance program.

The conversation about paid sick policies grew out of work spearheaded by Mayor Betsy Hodges and the City Council in early 2015. The Working Families Agenda outlined by city leaders included proposals supporting paid sick time, wage theft prevention, fair scheduling and a minimum wage study.

Five states, 22 cities and one county across the country have passed paid sick time laws, according to A Better Balance, a New York-based organization advocating for family-friendly policies in the workplace.