UPDATE: Mayor Hodges said Wednesday that the new workplace proposals are no longer headed for a city council vote this year. Read the latest story here.
Minnesota’s largest and most powerful business group is mobilizing its members against a proposal to impose the nation’s most sweeping sick-leave and scheduling changes on Minneapolis employers.
On Tuesday, 80 members of the Minnesota Business Partnership — a group that includes the leaders of Target, U.S. Bancorp, Xcel Energy and Mayo Clinic, among other major employers — convened a phone-conference strategy session. The goal: Defeat a set of proposals to guarantee more predictable schedules and paid sick leave. The group joins a growing number of business owners who say the plans could ravage Minneapolis employers.
Partnership members “take this very seriously and don’t want a confrontation with the City Council and the mayor,” said Charlie Weaver, the partnership’s executive director. “We know the mayor doesn’t want to be viewed as anti-business. Our hope is they will recognize that this is harmful not only to businesses, but harmful to employees.”
Mayor Betsy Hodges and some council members proposed the changes earlier this year as a way to ensure that low-income workers have more financial stability and more predictable schedules. But the mounting criticism from all corners of the business community has prompted Hodges and council members to scale back some of the proposals in the “Working Families Agenda,” which would affect thousands of businesses in the city.
Responding to questions about the broad business opposition, Hodges released a statement in which she reiterated the need for the changes in the face of serious problems with inequality in Minneapolis.
“We are a boomtown right now but it’s not trickling down to our lowest wage earners — and if we’re going to continue and grow and expand into the future, it needs to,” Hodges said. “I’ve always known that any solution has to ensure that both businesses and employees can succeed.”
Weaver said Tuesday evening that the city’s largest businesses are united in their belief that requirements mandating sick leave and additional pay when workers’ schedules are changed on short notice would prompt many companies to move out of Minneapolis. He said the group intends to continue to lobby the mayor and council members, who have indicated they’d like to pass some changes before the end of the year. The Star Tribune Media Co. is a member of the business partnership.
Leaders of some of the city’s major employers have been working behind-the-scenes to lobby Hodges and council members since the proposals were released in early September. Small business owners have been a larger, louder public force, turning out by the dozens at community meetings and peppering City Hall with e-mails and letters.
Workers’ groups supporting the sick leave and scheduling changes have worked to match those efforts, holding large rallies outside businesses and at City Hall, challenging business owners’ assertions that the changes would hurt their bottom lines.
Now, a week after Hodges and Council Members Elizabeth Glidden and Lisa Bender offered a trimmed-down scheduling proposal, large and small businesses are joining forces to continue the fight. Weaver said his group is working with the Workforce Fairness Coalition, an alliance of groups representing local chambers of commerce and industries ranging from restaurants and retailers to service shops and grocers.
The groups have scheduled another strategy session for Wednesday afternoon and have plans to take their concerns to City Hall on Friday morning.
Both Weaver and Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Klingel said they were encouraged by the mayor and council members’ willingness to listen to business concerns.
“It’s too soon to be optimistic,” Klingel said. “I am very gratified that the mayor and the City Council, as they said they would, are actually listening and making some adjustments based on the conversation.”
Glidden said it is clear the scheduling requirements have sparked more concern than the sick-leave provisions in the proposal. She said many members of the business community have volunteered to help the city come up with ideas to address workers’ concerns about last-minute scheduling.
“What we’re hearing is there’s a lot of challenge with the (scheduling) solution and that many say it just needs a fresher look, needs input from a variety of stakeholders,” she said.