The current working families ordinance being proposed by the Minneapolis mayor and City Council is striking for both the speed it is moving and the sweeping impact on the city’s employers and employees. It appears that there is no research at all on the impact of these scheduling requirements on small businesses, so this bill proposes to make Minneapolis a petri dish, experimenting in this area. Will small businesses adapt? Will they have to raise their prices? Will they relocate out of the city or will they fold? No one knows, but the city seems comfortable taking this big risk and pushing forward the ordinance without considering the tremendous challenges things like weather create for many of these employers. The idea that someone could start a new small business in Minneapolis without running afoul of these regulations is hard to believe. Ultimately, if businesses fold or move, this will also hurt the workers the ordinance’s advocates claim to be protecting.

Minneapolis has a healthy economy with strong neighborhoods and appealing quality of life. This proposal seems poised to do damage to the appeal of working and living in Minneapolis. We should all hope the city moves with appropriate caution and does its research before it places onerous regulations on small businesses with no appreciation of the impact.

Mike Hess, Minneapolis

• • •

 

I was troubled to read Veda Shook’s comments regarding the ordinance proposed by several Minneapolis City Council members that would require employers to provide paid sick time off for all employees not covered by a union contract (“Brawl over scheduling rules is just ahead,” Oct. 2, and “Mpls. weighs sweeping rules for sick time, work schedules,” Oct. 4).

Our family owns two hardware stores in Minneapolis. We opened in 1954. Like other neighborhood businesses throughout the city, we work alongside our employees to make sure the services and goods our community requires are available seven days a week. We provide above-market wages, profit-sharing and flexible schedules that our employees appreciate. While the work requires flexibility from our employees, it is a flexibility that cuts both ways. We make schedule changes every day to accommodate the changing needs of our employees — both for the short- and long-term as family issues arise, educational opportunities are pursued or other jobs require our employees to be absent.

The proposed ordinance interjects the City Council into the detailed operations of hundreds of businesses in our community. While 10 states may have considered some of the items in the proposed ordinance, none has included so many requirements and none has placed these scheduling requirements into law. San Francisco adopted scheduling requirements this past July, but only for businesses with 40 or more retail establishments around the world. Sufficient time has not elapsed to evaluate the impact of these new requirements in San Francisco.

Every item in the proposed ordinance has a cost associated, but there is no provision in the ordinance to pay for these increased costs or to address the operational fallout. I invite Ms. Shook to stop by our local businesses the next time she visits Minneapolis. What she will find is a city where business owners and employees are working hard both to serve their community and to survive in challenging economic times.

Jim Welna, Minneapolis

The writer and his wife, Sue, own Welna II Hardware in Minneapolis’ Seward neighborhood.

• • •

Everyone gets sick, but not everyone has paid sick time. I work as a retail janitor cleaning a store in downtown Minneapolis with no paid sick days. So if I get sick, I have to choose between going into work and risk infecting others or lose part of my paycheck. If my daughter gets sick, I face the same difficult choice: Send her to school sick or lose wages we need for bills and groceries. I usually decide to stay home and take care of my family’s health, but then during our next trip to the grocery store, we can’t buy all of the groceries we need.

I’ve been coming together with my co-workers and other low-wage workers around Minneapolis to call on the city to address these problems. The Working Families Agenda would give all workers the right to earn paid sick time, which would provide a sense of security for hardworking Minnesotans like me. I’m urging our City Council members to lead on these policies — so more of our neighbors can stay healthy, provide for their families and rest assured that catching the flu won’t result in lost wages or even worse — losing a job.

Ivonne Garduño, Minneapolis

 

SCHOOL SUSPENSIONS

As a last resort, yes, but needs of other students must come first

In a perfect world where there is no achievement gap, where all students come to school with their basic needs met, where learning can happen in an uninterrupted flow, including the absence of continual mandated testing, when teachers can teach the curriculum that will be tested and when resources are abundant to address the needs of each school, then suspensions may be a thing of the past (“K-1 kids are still getting suspended,” Oct. 4). However, none of the above exists, and the emotional, behavioral and social needs of students cannot always be met within the options in a school. True, suspensions should be a last resort, but the education and safety of the other students must be protected.

When the focus of the teachers and the administration is on a single student, the other students’ needs are often jeopardized and learning is put on hold. In days of yore, when many schools had behavior specialists, there was a professional on-site to manage the students who needed attention away from the classroom, but would remain within the school. Not only does that not exist today, but also, the enrollment in many schools demands the use of every space in the school for instruction and there are no retreats for individual students who need some time away from their classes.

Some in the broader society are critical of educational protocols, perhaps with good intentions, but not truly understanding the complexity of daily life in a school. Yes, suspensions are regrettable, but there have to be options for ensuring that teachers can continue to do the job they were hired to do — teach!

Susan nudell kalin, Minneapolis

• • •

Why are black students suspended 12 times as often as their white peers? As a member of a teacher action team with Educators 4 Excellence, this is the question my colleagues and I are grappling with as we lead focus groups in our schools to reduce discipline disparities in Minnesota.

As a teacher on special assignment in the Minneapolis Public Schools, I have the opportunity to see our changing discipline policies from both the administrative and teacher perspectives. MPS is doing the right thing to expand our ban on nonviolent suspensions to grades K-5, and at the same time we also have a lot of work to do.

Most teachers are in support of a ban on nonviolent suspensions and they want students to be in their classrooms learning. However, there is also frustration about how changes in practice have been rolled out because teachers need more time and training on new practices.

At the very least our students of color need to be in school in order to reduce the achievement gap between white students and students of color. My hope is for MPS teachers to develop equitable solutions together with the district administration.

Sarah Knappmiller Hunter, St. Paul

• • •

I had to get out the calculator to figure the percent change in the suspension rate in MPS from 2014 to 2015, because the article didn’t actually mention it. Using the numbers quoted in the article, I found that going from 2,768 students suspended to 1,925 is a drop of 30 percent. But of course that was not the headline.

Emily Palmer, Minneapolis

 

Tragic harvest

Wrong on safety regulations

Sometimes silence says a lot, as in the Oct. 4 Star Tribune article “Deadliest Workplace: The small family farm” when Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline wouldn’t discuss his opposition to regulations aimed at reducing the number of deaths from grain-bin accidents. My question for Kline and others who regularly rail against the “evils” of regulation is this: If you really believe we’re better off without those rules, why won’t you even talk to us when heartbreaking facts make it clear that you’re wrong?

Steven Schild, Winona, Minn.