A coalition of Minneapolis business leaders wants the city to hit pause on a proposal to crack down on wage theft, arguing a municipal ordinance would be confusing and unjustified with the new statewide law.
In a letter Monday to Mayor Jacob Frey and the City Council, the groups call wage theft an "abomination," but ask for a seat at the table in crafting the language for policing it.
"Wage theft is wrong and should be stopped," the coalition writes. "Let's work together to create a system in Minnesota and Minneapolis that lifts workers, supports businesses, and fosters an environment where Minneapolis is one of the most desirable places in the country to do business."
The letter is signed by leaders from the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, Minneapolis Downtown Council, Minnesota Retailers Association, Warehouse District Business Association, Northeast Minneapolis Chamber, Southwest Business Association and Greater Minneapolis Hotel Association.
The ordinance is currently set for a public hearing in late July, said Council Member Steve Fletcher, a co-author of the ordinance. "I do not plan to put this on pause," Fletcher said.
On Monday, a bipartisan group of Minnesota lawmakers and Gov. Tim Walz celebrated what they hailed as the nation's most robust protections for workers not receiving full pay from their bosses, a problem that amounts to millions of dollars in losses across the state.
Elected officials in Minneapolis announced their own plan to deal with the same problem last month. If passed, it would create a simplified process that allows workers to recoup wages without an attorney, protect them from retaliation and put in place new punishments for repeat violators. It would also give the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights more power to investigate wage-theft claims, instead of relying solely on the state's resources.
In the letter to city officials, the coalition says employers are still learning how to implement the state law, which went into effect July 1. Adding another set of rules right away will make it difficult for Minneapolis business owners to adapt, they said.
"In addition to the efforts required to comply with state regulation, we have serious concerns about the extra paperwork and regulatory requirements in the proposed Minneapolis ordinance," the coalition wrote. The business leaders also said the city hasn't done enough to engage with employers so far.
Fletcher disputed that claim, saying the city has brought business leaders into the conversation throughout the process.
"I definitely don't think this has been hidden or secret, or that anybody hasn't had the opportunity to weigh in," he said. "I think the Chamber probably can't let any labor ordinance pass without objecting to it."
Council Member Linea Palmisano, another ordinance author, also disagreed with the letter. She said her office has met with the Minneapolis Regional Chamber three times on this issue, and that a working group including business owners helped craft the ordinance.