Above: Concerned citizens listened to Minneapolis City Council members as they discussed a motion to return the Working Families ordinance to author and to cancel a previously scheduled public hearing. The motion passed. (JIM GEHRZ)
Amid fierce debate between business and workers’ groups over the city’s role in regulating the workplace, Minneapolis leaders retreated Friday on proposed mandates surrounding employee schedules and sick time.
The City Council’s 10-3 vote to nix the proposals, touted by Mayor Betsy Hodges as the Working Families Agenda, illustrated deep divisions among the members. But the council signaled its intent to revisit the proposal requiring employers to provide sick time, establishing a 15-member group tasked with developing policy suggestions by February.
“I think it’s important to recognize that we had a great deal of pushback on the proposals for scheduling, so I appreciate that is off our plate,” Council President Barb Johnson said. “But I do want to say that sick time is important for me. It’s important for me to support people who need to have flexibility to take time off in their job.”
Todd Klingel of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce was buoyed by Friday’s votes to remove the items from immediate consideration. “I was quite encouraged by it, and it gave me renewed faith in the public/private process,” Klingel said.
But Anthony Newby of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, a group advocating on behalf of workers, said it was disappointing that “three or four phone calls from business can offset the voices of hundreds of workers.”
He added that they are happy the partnership, which includes employers, workers, unions and business groups, will provide a venue for workers to offer solutions.
The scheduling proposal, which would have required employers to give workers weeks’ notice about their schedules, essentially died last week when Hodges pulled her support amid growing opposition. Hodges was not at the meeting Friday. A city spokesman said she was on a “long-planned” weekend trip with her husband.
The most ardent supporters of both measures expressed disappointment Friday at how things unfolded. Council Members Lisa Bender, Elizabeth Glidden and Cam Gordon voted against pulling the Working Families items from the agenda.
Bender lamented that the council was essentially ending its work on scheduling, rather than looking for a compromise.
“We started this conversation because we know that too many working people do not have simple protections in their workplaces,” she said. “They cannot plan for basic necessities like child care, like food, like rent, because they don’t even know if they’ll be working four hours a week or 40.”
But concerns from the city’s business owners also weighed on the council members.
“The reality is our small business owners are terrified at these original proposals,” Council Member Linea Palmisano said. “We need to tailor these so that they impact the bad actors and that they don’t ruin or negatively impact the other employer-employee kinds of relationships that are working.”
Eric Roper • 612-673-1732