Strong support expressed for proposed paid sick time ordinance

A woman rallied with her baby Wednesday afternoon on the steps of City Hall for a new paid sick time ordinance. Photo by Sarah McKenzie

More than 70 people lined up to share their views on the city’s proposed paid sick time ordinance during a three-hour public hearing at City Hall on Wednesday.

The vast majority of speakers spoke in favor of the proposed policy, which would require employers with at least six Minneapolis workers to offer up to 48 hours of paid sick time annually. The ordinance includes several exemptions for certain categories of workers and would take effect July 1, 2017.

Businesses with existing paid-time-off or sick time policies that meet the minimum standards outlined in the city’s ordinance would not be required to provide additional time off to workers.

Business owners and representatives of business associations who spoke against the proposal said the city shouldn’t be micromanaging businesses and argued the ordinance would pose an administrative burden.

The City Council is scheduled to discuss the proposed ordinance Thursday, May 26 at noon and then vote on the measure May 27. The proposal appears to have wide support on the Council.

Low-wage workers and their advocates have been lobbying city leaders to pass a paid sick time policy for more than a year. Before Wednesday’s public hearing several people rallied on the steps of City Hall to share personal stories about the hardships of working without access to paid sick days.

An estimated 42 percent of Minneapolis workers don’t have access to paid sick days — more than 100,000 people. They are disproportionately people of color and women.

Kandace Montgomery asked Council members to listen to the workers. She said her mom worked 12 to 16 hours days to provide for her family when she was growing up and faced serious health problems as a result of so much stress.

“I hope that you are listening to the people who are struggling,” she said. “… I want you to look at who they are — they are black and brown folks primarily. This is a race issue. You’ve seen it racially represented right in front of you today. To be real, they don’t look like most of you.”

Dan McElroy, who spoke on behalf of the Minnesota Restaurant and Minnesota Lodging associations, said the groups’ leaders share the goals of wanting employees to stay home when they are sick and not lose money when they can’t work their normal schedule.

He said the city should adopt a more “creative approach” to the problem by encouraging businesses to used automated scheduling tools to allow employees to trade shifts, among other things.

McElroy said the groups also favor an ordinance that would require businesses with 10 or more employees to have sick and safe leave policies that would be disclosed to the public.

Minneapolis would be the first city in the state to have a paid sick time ordinance if the Council approves the policy May 27. Other cities, including St. Paul, are considering similar measures.

Five states, 23 cities and one county in the U.S. have paid sick time laws, according A Better Balance, a New York organization that advocates for family friendly policies.

(Below: A dance and drum crew performed during the rally outside City Hall.)