Paid sick leave hearing draws criticism, approval

The proposal would require all Minneapolis businesses to offer paid sick leave to employees.

by Ryan Faircloth

Chants of “Sick leave for who? Sick leave for all!” echoed through the hallway of Minneapolis City Hall  last week, where workers and business owners discussed a proposal on paid sick time for Minneapolis workers.

The three-hour hearing attracted more than 70 Minneapolis residents who voiced their opinions on the ordinance before the final City Council  vote Friday. 

If approved, the ordinance  would require all Minneapolis businesses with six or more employees to provide paid sick time. The mandate could also include coverage for casual workers and independent contractors if amended before a May 27 vote.

Employees can earn an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, and the hours can be used when an employee is ill or needs to care for a family member. If the approved, the ordinance would go into effect on July 1, 2017.

Many low-wage workers were present at the hearing to support the ordinance, claiming they shouldn’t have to choose between getting well and getting paid. 

Rod Adams, a Minneapolis resident who worked in a restaurant as a cook, spoke in support of the ordinance.

Adams said he was working one day when he cut his finger while slicing meat. He went to his manager, who told him to “put some gauze on it” and finish the shift. He did.

When Adams later took time off to seek treatment for the injury, he said his employer fired him.

“My hours were cut, and I basically ended up getting fired,” Adams said. “Once I got fired … I couldn’t pay my bills, I lost my car, I lost my house.”

Adams asked the council to pass the ordinance. “We need sick time now.”

But some business owners disagree, claiming the ordinance would hurt their businesses.

John Stanoch, interim president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce  — an organization that advocates for businesses — said the organization opposes the ordinance.

“We think that the mandated approach to providing sick leave is not appropriate, and its one-size-fits-all approach is going to have all sorts of implications and potential unintended consequences for businesses,” he said.

Another Minneapolis business owner, Joe Woods , said the ordinance had many holes in it.

“I could not be against this proposal the way it stands any stronger,” Woods said. “It’s terrible.”

At the hearing, he said the ordinance would dissuade businesses from coming to Minneapolis.

“Businesses are not going to move here or relocate here because this is not a business-friendly thing,” he said. “This drives costs up.”

Not all business owners were in agreement.

Daniel Swenson-Klatt, who has owned and managed Butter Bakery Cafe in Southwest Minneapolis for 10 years , spoke in favor of the proposal.

Swenson-Klatt said he implemented an older version of the paid sick and safe time proposal last year for his 21 employees.

The result, he said, has paid off.

“The adoption of the proposal has not been burdensome or onerous or costly,” he said. “Instead it has provided my staff with a sense of security and an investment in my business.”

While the change increased his payroll costs by roughly one percent, Swenson-Klatt said it also reduced the costs of turnover and training.

Shaz Khan , co-owner and CFO of Frank from Philly and Andrea Pizza in Dinkytown , said he also supports paid sick time for his employees.

Khan said the ordinance doesn’t worry him from a financial standpoint because it provides employees “the opportunity to get something they deserve.” He said businesses should be able to accommodate the measure.

“I think any responsible business owner is going to have in place the logistics and the tools necessary to make up for any sort of highs and lows when it comes to business itself,” he said.

Both Khan and Swenson-Klatt said their main focus was on their employees and that they can handle costs accompanied with providing sick time.

“This proposal is good for business,” Swenson-Klatt said.  “Not caring for employees is anti-business.”