As Minnesota's largest paper, with one of the widest daily circulations in the country, the Star Tribune is responsible for covering the various sides of issues that matter most to Minnesotans, engaging its readers in the public debates of the day. It is frustrating, then, that the newspaper's Editorial Board would produce such a slanted piece of writing on an intensely debated policy — the Working Families Agenda ("Anti-business agenda should be scrapped," editorial, Oct. 15). This one-sided editorial focused entirely on concerns from businesses that have lobbied against the ordinance, while it altogether ignored the immediate crisis facing hundreds of thousands of Minneapolis hourly workers like me.
I am a certified nursing assistant and mother raising a daughter on my own in Minneapolis. I am also African-American. I work full time and am putting myself through school. I recently reached a milestone at school with my certification as a nursing assistant. But I'm still struggling to make it on $11.25 an hour with a schedule that changes rapidly and with no ability to earn some paid time off to use if my daughter or I become sick. So you can imagine my concern when I read the lengthy editorial on Friday to find that it not only disparaged the need for better workplace protections, but that it failed to include the viewpoint of the nearly 200,000 workers in Minneapolis the Working Families Agenda aims to help. One huge side of the debate was ignored outright.
I work hard every day but do not earn a single paid day off to use if my daughter or I get sick. I work in an assisted-living home, where I care for elderly people, many of whom are in frail health. But when I fall sick, I can't afford to lose pay — so I have to choose whether to come to work anyway, jeopardizing my health and the health of my elderly patients. Choices like these make it excruciatingly difficult to provide for my family.
The Star Tribune has repeatedly covered the racial disparities present in Minneapolis over the course of years and in recent months in such articles as "Blacks face large and growing gap" (Sept. 26) and "Income plunges for blacks in state" (Sept. 17). Yet the Editorial Board diminishes the systemic barriers facing my African-American community by suggesting that the solution to our worst-in-the-nation racial disparities lies only in education, not workplace policies.
The educational outcomes for both my daughter and I are directly linked to our economic and physical health. That's why the Working Families Agenda is, in fact, a bold step toward reducing the educational disparities people of color face in Minneapolis. You can't learn if you don't get a good night's sleep or have enough food to eat. You can't perform well on your exams if you don't have the ability to take a couple of days off from work to help yourself or your daughter recover from an illness. Contrary to the Editorial Board's assertion, the Working Families Agenda is, in fact, a set of constructive policies to both address and reduce disparities in Minneapolis, including the city's alarming racial educational disparities.
Earned sick time and fair scheduling policies, like those being discussed across the city through the Working Families Agenda, would go a long way toward giving my daughter and me the stability we need. The stability I need to finish my schooling. The protection to balance being a working mom with the responsibilities of my job and education. The peace of mind to know that when my daughter or I become ill, we may stay home together to get better without fear of losing my paycheck or my job altogether.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and members of the City Council have taken an important step in jump-starting a citywide conversation about the significant challenges hourly workers and their families — families like mine — face every day. And they have put forward a set of policies that would go a long way toward reducing racial and economic disparities that consistently put Minneapolis at the top of the "worst" lists on these factors across the country.
Though I was disappointed to see city leaders drop their plan to develop a fair scheduling ordinance, I urge the City Council to pass a strong policy for paid sick time this year. While more than half of employees in Minneapolis may be lucky to have a job that already allows them paid sick time and provides a consistent schedule, readers need to know that all too many families are like mine. Our voices need to be heard, not ignored.
Kaila Conley, of Minneapolis, is a certified nursing assistant.