The Minneapolis City Council may delay a scheduled public hearing on a new citywide sick-leave proposal for more study.
At Friday’s council meeting, Council President Barb Johnson and Council Member Andrew Johnson intend to call for the creation of a Workplace Regulations Partnership and call off the public hearing scheduled for Nov. 4.
Under their plan, a 15-member committee of representatives picked by Mayor Betsy Hodges, the council and the council president would be assembled in mid-November. The group would include employees, labor leaders, employers and business organizations, and would be supported with technical assistance from the city. It would provide its proposals on sick time and paid time off to the council by late February.
Andrew Johnson said it has become clear that a number of details need to be worked out before a proposal goes to a vote, including how and when the new law would be implemented and how businesses would track and account for their employees’ sick leave. He said it’s also important to clarify the rules for businesses that operate in Minneapolis as well as other cities, or are based elsewhere but operate in the city.
“There are these really specific, technical, legitimate questions that we need to answer and the November 4 public hearing date, which was less than two weeks away — we were definitely not going to resolve those questions by then,” he said.
The Working Families Agenda, an idea introduced by Hodges in her State of the City address in April, has sparked debate between business owners and workers’ groups. A proposal unveiled in early September included ideas for new laws that would govern workplace scheduling and sick leave.
After a few weeks of discussion — and considerable pushback from business owners — Hodges and the council members leading the effort agreed to scale back the scheduling provision. Last week, the mayor announced that she’d table the scheduling issue and proceed with the sick-leave plan.
Under that proposal, all Minneapolis employers would be required to provide paid sick leave at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. At businesses with fewer than 21 workers, employees could earn up to 40 hours per year. Those at larger businesses could earn up to 72 hours.
Over the past few days, three different groups have rallied at City Hall on the issue. Late last week, about 300 workers and labor advocates marched to the council’s offices to show support for both sick-leave and predictable scheduling policies. A day later, business owners matched that gathering with one in which they said such policies could create financial and logistical hardships.
About 40 leaders of Minneapolis churches and synagogues stood on the steps of City Hall on Thursday and called on council members to “exercise [their] moral courage” and pass a sick-leave law.
Rabbi Michael Latz of the Shir Tikvah Synagogue gestured up to the third-floor offices of council members.
“You know up there how complicated life is when someone in your family gets sick,” he said.
Some of the six people who spoke at the event echoed other supporters’ calls for laws that could help low-wage workers, who are often members of minorities.
“This is a very basic right, and it is a health issue,” said the Rev. Paul Slack of the New Creation Church. “And, unfortunately, disproportionately people of color are affected by this.”
The Rev. Laurie Eaton of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church said the unwillingness of businesses to consider such reforms is problematic.
“This is exactly what systemic racism looks like,” she said.
Erin Golden • 612-673-4790