The Minneapolis City Council is edging closer to a final package of proposed changes that would guarantee that nearly all workers in the city get paid sick leave and more predictable scheduling.
Council Members Lisa Bender and Elizabeth Glidden said Tuesday that while there are some stark differences between what workers have asked for and what business owners say they can afford, some of the feedback from both sides does match up. Separately on Tuesday, Mayor Betsy Hodges issued a news release offering support for the same changes the two council members have discussed.
The mayor said it is critical to ensure that low-income workers earn sick time, are paid for all the hours they work and have predictable schedules so they can adequately plan for child care or second jobs. “It helps all our communities thrive now and lays the foundation for Minneapolis’ economic success in the future,” Hodges said.
The proposed revisions come after weeks of intense criticism by local business leaders who say the changes are potentially so expensive that it could drive them out of business or to another city.
Reacting to the criticism, city officials have found areas that could be tweaked: reducing the time frame in which employers must provide employees’ schedules from 28 days in advance of a shift to 14 days. The council members said they have also heard wide support for an ordinance that would prevent employees from being assigned to “clopening” shifts, which require working a closing shift one night and coming back a few hours later to open the business.
Other areas likely to be added to a final proposal include protections for schedules that include four 10-hour shifts and a phased-in implementation that would allow more time for small businesses to adapt to any new regulations.
“People are coming forward with other ideas, too, and being clear about what doesn’t work, or what does resonate,” Glidden said.
The initial proposal, known as the Working Families Agenda, would be the most wide-ranging of any city in the country. Hodges first introduced the idea in her State of the City address in April, part of a larger effort to tackle financial disparities between whites and residents of color. It followed — and was followed by — multiple large demonstrations from workers’ groups, who have argued that unpredictable schedules, a lack of access to sick leave and low wages are key contributors to Minneapolis’ substantial racial and economic disparities.
A plan was introduced by Bender, Glidden and Council Member Andrew Johnson early in September and was immediately met with criticism from business owners, including some who continue to turn out by the dozens at listening sessions with council members. Many said scheduling out employees a month in advance would be nearly impossible, and that requirements to pay workers when shifts changed or were canceled could put them out of business.
The council has received more than 300 written comments on the proposals. On Tuesday, advocacy group Working America brought a petition to City Hall with more than 6,100 signatures in support of the changes. And a new group, the Workforce Fairness Coalition, has formed in opposition.
“What we’re hearing … is people talking about 14 days being more in tune with greater industry needs,” Glidden said.
While other cities and a few states have passed laws providing sick leave to more workers, only one, San Francisco, has implemented scheduling requirements, and only for large, chain businesses.
Minneapolis’ sick leave and scheduling provisions would apply to all employers with at least one employee, with the exception of those covered under a collective bargaining agreement.
The council held a study session on the issue Tuesday, inviting officials from the state and city health departments and a University of Chicago professor who researches workplace scheduling.
Both health officials pointed to studies showing that higher numbers of workers in industries like food service and health care — both of which involve a large amount of interaction with the public — lack sick leave when compared to other types of workers. They pointed to studies that show the children of workers with access to paid sick days tend to have fewer health problems and do better in school.
Susan Lambert, the scheduling expert, said her research has found that many business owners and managers who believe they can’t accurately predict their staffing needs can do better than they expect.
But Council Members Lisa Goodman, Jacob Frey and Linea Palmisano asked how many of Lambert’s studies involved small businesses, restaurants or others who have played a key role in the Minneapolis discussions. The professor said she’d researched only large companies, none of them restaurants.
Lambert said more predictable scheduling can benefit both businesses and workers, but she urged the council to continue considering feedback from all angles before crafting a final policy.
“It’s only if employers — not just the ones who have drank the Kool-Aid on this, but the other ones who have really serious concerns — are engaged in that dialogue is the ordinance going to work for everyone,” she said.
The council expects to hold a public hearing on a final proposal in November.