In an ongoing conversation about the best ways to support workers in Minneapolis, we agree with one key point made in “The case for mandating employees’ paid sick leave” (April 19). We agree that the authors’ ideas, as well as the recommendations from the Minneapolis Workplace Regulation Partnership Group (WPG) regarding paid sick and safe leave, should be given sober consideration. Because the stakes for our city’s economy are high.
We are fortunate that there is time to further review the WPG recommendations before they become law only in Minneapolis. It turns out that the more time one spends looking at what is being proposed, how the new provisions would be enacted and their impact, the clearer it becomes that the “solution” to this issue is complex. The approach being suggested would take our city in the wrong direction.
For us, an important starting point is to understand that businesses value and support workers. The city of Minneapolis does not have to instruct employers on how to treat their employees well. However, over the past year that is just how many businesspeople throughout our city have felt.
The WPG proposed what is essentially a one-size-fits-all solution with recommended rules that would be imposed on thousands of employers, many of whom have in place personnel policies and practices that work well for them and the people they employ. This is a wrongheaded approach.
It’s true that it is currently an employer’s choice whether to offer employees sick and safe time. But when the commentary writers support an across-the-board mandate, they forget that the vast majority of employers work hard to provide workers with customized leave options — often including sick and safe time — that are tailored to their specific industries, their individual workforces and each employee’s personal life.
Combine the broad range of employers in Minneapolis with a sweeping ordinance, and the result would be a multitude of both predicted and unintended consequences that could be debilitating to Minneapolis’ workforce and economy.
There is limited research or evidence regarding how an ordinance like this would impact small businesses and future business development in Minneapolis, the operational and financial impact on both a business and city, and the effect on wage growth and labor costs. The list of unknowns goes on and on. No one has been able even to predict whether the benefit to workers would outweigh these predicted and unintended effects.
Minneapolis is not an island, but part of an integrated, regional economy with a highly mobile workforce. City officials should be cautious when considering an ordinance that would contribute to making Minneapolis a singularly costly, unattractive, and complicated place to own and conduct business in the metro area.
Of the approximately 300,000 people who work in Minneapolis, only 25 percent also live in the city. The WPG recommendations also would affect employees of businesses with headquarters outside the city who happen to work in Minneapolis. This means that any action implemented based on the WPG report would have an outsized effect on businesses and workers that are not city constituents. This as a boundary Minneapolis elected officials should not overstep.
The Workforce Fairness Coalition has presented an alternative idea based on building a community partnership, an approach that encourages and lifts employers up in an effort to expand worker access to sick and safe time. A collaborative approach can work, as we have seen with other issues in Minneapolis — most recently creation of the Clean Energy Partnership as an alternative to a City Hall takeover of private utilities.
Serious consideration should indeed be given to this issue and what is being proposed. Sufficient time must be taken and business community input sought to make sure any actions taken are well understood, completely reviewed and designed to ensure that we actually help people and do not hurt our economy.
Joanne Kaufman is executive director of the Warehouse District Business Association. Steve Cramer is president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council. John Stanoch is the interim president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce.