The Minneapolis City Council on Thursday adopted protections for local workers against wage theft, what council members called “historic legislation” that will amplify one of the nation’s strongest wage-theft laws passed by the state earlier this year.
“We’ve heard the stories, in this room, outside on the streets, of workers … who experience wage theft while working in Minneapolis,” said Council Member Linea Palmisano, who co-wrote the ordinance. “Most of our efforts here will now conform with state law, and that’s important.”
Union leaders and activists applauded the council’s move, while groups representing employers and businesses had previously raised concerns about adding local regulations to a brand-new state law.
A coalition of business organizations, including the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, Minneapolis Downtown Council and Minnesota Retailers Association, had released a letter condemning wage theft but asking to be involved in crafting the language for the city’s ordinance.
Jonathan Weinhagen, the president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, said that council members met with members of the coalition to make the ordinance “more workable.”
“We passed the strongest wage-theft law in the country; it’s just being implemented,” Weinhagen said Thursday. “The biggest concern now ... is making sure that we educate businesses across the state on the new state law, and then businesses in Minneapolis are going to need a double effort.”
Under the city’s ordinance, employers will have to put all pay agreements in writing, provide regular written or electronic earnings statements to workers and give all employees a copy of the law. It would also allow workers to report their bosses for retaliation related to the new policy.
The city could force violators to pay back wages, cover investigation costs or pay a civil fine.
The ordinance also requires employers to show workers their available sick and safe time on each earning statement. Notices given to employees before they are hired must include safe- and sick-time rights, overtime policies and a statement that sharing tips is voluntary under state law.
Palmisano and Council Members Steve Fletcher and Phillipe Cunningham introduced the city’s ordinance.
Cunningham called the ordinance “historic legislation” and commended organizations including Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL) that pushed for workers’ rights.
“Now we have the infrastructure in place to be able to truly hold the bad actors accountable and protect workers,” he said.
After Thursday’s council meeting, a dozen people gathered outside council chambers to declare the law a victory for workers.
“Where I come from, we don’t believe that the system really works for the people,” said Henry Scott, a member of CTUL. “I truly believe that this is a safer day for the workers of Minnesota.”
Kevin Osborn, a 23-year-old line cook, said the ordinance gives workers “breathing room” to organize for even better conditions.
“Wage theft is built into the business models of so many of our industries,” Osborn said. “While the ordinance that was passed today certainly isn’t the silver bullet to answer all of the problems of working people, it’s something that we can start with.”
The city’s Department of Civil Rights will begin enforcing the ordinance next year.
Star Tribune writer Andy Mannix contributed to this report.