After weeks of heavy criticism from business owners, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has pulled her support from a proposal that would have imposed the most expansive workplace scheduling requirements in the country.
The mayor and other leaders behind the proposed Working Families Agenda said Wednesday that the issue is too heated — and too complex — to resolve by the end of the year, as they’d planned.
In a statement, Hodges said she’s heard the concerns expressed by business owners and also believes many are interested in working with the city to improve conditions for low-income workers and address economic inequity.
For now, the mayor said she and council members will work to pass a stripped-down measure that primarily ensures that workers get paid sick leave.
“I am moving forward with the agenda to ensure earned sick and safe time and to protect against wage theft,” the mayor said. Scheduling policies “will not be the focus of the work,” she added.
The debate had sandwiched Hodges between a well-organized contingent of workers’ groups that represents an important part of her political base and a growing backlash from both small and large businesses. Hodges’ pullback provoked criticism from groups that have been pushing for the changes, including the Minneapolis Works coalition of unions and other workers’ organizations, who labeled it “incredibly disappointing.”
Hodges and Council Members Elizabeth Glidden and Lisa Bender, who have led the drive for the changes, each said they intend to continue discussions about securing more predictable scheduling for workers.
Their proposal would have required employers to provide employees with schedules weeks in advance and provide one hour of “predictability pay” each time they adjusted a worker’s schedule. Employers would have also paid for at least four hours’ work if a shift was canceled or changed with less than 24 hours’ notice. Thousands of Minneapolis businesses would have been affected.
Workers’ groups said the proposals would provide stability for low-wage and hourly workers. They argued that regulations ensuring predictable scheduling, along with those mandating paid sick leave, would help erase racial and economic inequality in Minneapolis.
Hodges has rallied the support of those groups for her other initiatives aimed at improving racial equity, one of the central goals of her administration. The scheduling provision featured prominently in her State of the City speech last April, and, in her statement Wednesday, the mayor reiterated that she still considers unpredictable scheduling to be a problem that should be solved.
But the organizations that had backed Hodges, Glidden, Bender and their equity efforts expressed some of the most pointed frustration of the mayor’s term in office.
Some advocates, reacting on social media, worried that the mayor and others had caved to criticism by small businesses and large corporations. While much of the discussion around the proposals had centered on the bottom-line concerns of small businesses, some of the city’s biggest corporations had recently intensified the efforts to defeat the measure.
In a note posted to Hodges’ Facebook page, Black Lives Matter organizer Lena Gardner wrote that she “could not be more disappointed.” “You’ll be hearing more from us,” she added. “This isn’t the end.”
Anthony Newby, executive director of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, is concerned that the mayor and other advocates backed away from some of the proposal’s most important provisions for low-income residents. He pointed to recent data that show the incomes of black residents falling and the economic gap widening across the city.
But Newby said he sees opportunity in a moment when so many people are talking about workers, inequality and economic success.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook, my office has been full all day,” he said. “Everybody’s trying to figure out what is the thing we can do. Let’s pivot from what we can’t do and figure out what actually is workable. If we need more time, let’s take more time, but doing nothing is not an option.”
Todd Klingel, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, cheered the mayor’s decision.
“I thought the mayor was being very thoughtful,” he said. “She had told us she would listen to employers and employees and obviously she’s done that.”
Klingel said business leaders who had mobilized against the scheduling proposals are taking a closer look at the sick-leave provisions that remain on the table and likely headed for a vote next month. So far, that part of the proposal has proved less controversial.
Sick leave proposals
Under those plans, all employees of businesses in Minneapolis would be entitled to earn paid sick leave, with the exception of those whose collective bargaining agreements contained an exemption.
Workers would earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. For businesses with up to 20 employees, workers could earn up to 40 hours per year, and those at larger businesses could earn 72 hours per year.
Employees could use the time for illness, to take care of family members, for preventive care or following domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking. Unused days could be carried over from year to year, but employers would not be required to exceed the maximum required hours. Earned sick days could not be carried from employer to employer, a concern raised by some critics.
Unlike the scheduling proposals, Minneapolis would not stand alone if it approves the sick-leave requirements. Similar provisions, with varying degrees of coverage, are now the law in four states, 19 cities and one county nationwide.