by Ellen Bravo
Today’s paid sick days victory in Minneapolis is a huge win for Minneapolis workers and will help boost health and safety in that city. This achievement would not have happened without the hard work and persistence of activists across the state, and I, along with the other 23 coalitions in the Family Values @ Work network, congratulate TakeAction MN and their partners. Opponents did their best to stop these laws with an attempt to add a local interference measure into a state omnibus budget, which would have prevented municipalities from passing their own workplace protections. But the coalition and their champions organized to make sure that didn’t happen. Now, workers in Minneapolis will not have to choose between earning a paycheck and being a good parent or following doctor’s orders.
The new ordinance will go into effect July 1, 2017. Employees who work at least 80 hours per year in the city and work for a business with at least six employees will be able to earn up to 48 hours per year, at the rate of one hour per 30 hours worked. Unused time could be carried over from year to year, up to 80 hours. Those who work in smaller firms will have job-protected unpaid sick days. Workers can use the time to care for a personal or family illness or to deal with domestic abuse and related concerns. It can also be used by parents who have to stay home with children when schools or child care facilities are closed because of weather, power outages, or other emergency situations.
Below is the press release from the Minneapolis coalition, emphasizing the importance of paid sick and safe days in the fight against income inequality and racial disparities.
In historic vote, Minneapolis becomes first city in Midwest to pass paid sick time ordinance
Following campaign led by workers of color, city takes step to address racial disparities
Today the Minneapolis City Council passed a historic earned sick and safe time ordinance, making Minneapolis the 27th city in the country and first in the Midwest to extend sick time to most workers in the city. The ordinance will take effect in July 2017.
“Today’s vote is a tremendous victory for low-wage workers of color who fought for, demanded, and won better workplace protections,” said Anthony Newby, executive director of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. “Addressing economic inequality is crucial to solving Minnesota’s persistent racial disparities. Earned sick and safe time for Minneapolis workers is an important step in the right direction.
“Passing earned sick and safe time is a huge victory for workers and our families. Fast food workers and janitors with CTUL have been striking for the past few years for higher wages, union rights, a voice in the workplace and benefits like paid sick days and finally our city is taking a big step to help us workers and our families. We deserve to take care of our health and our families as well,” said Guillermo Lindsay, a McDonald’s worker and member of Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) member.
The vote came after a yearlong campaign led by Minneapolis workers of color organizing for stronger protections, including paid sick time, predictive scheduling, an end to wage theft, and a $15 minimum wage. Throughout 2015 and in early 2016, hundreds of low-wage workers held forums, marches, rallies, and went on strike, sharing their stories on social media, with their council members, and with the press.
“The passage of Earned Sick and Safe Time not only secures the income of my customer base–it is a step forward in solving the racial and gender-based disparities growing here in Minneapolis,” said Dan Swenson-Klatt, owner of Butter Bakery Cafe. “When working families have a reliable income that they can count on, regardless of unexpected illnesses, it boosts the collective wealth of our community.”
41% of Minneapolis workers lack access to a single day of paid sick time, disproportionately people of color and women. The paid sick time ordinance was hailed as a crucial step toward racial equity in a city with some of the worst racial disparities in the country.
Erika Sanchez, a member of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change who works at a Holiday gas station and suffers from leukemia, said, “I was unable to care for my health properly through dialysis and eventually chemotherapy because of restrictions at my job. Had I had earned sick time, I would have been able to care for myself. This ordinance isn’t just speaking to me and my personal issue. It will make things better for workers throughout the city.”
The ordinance closely followed the recommendations of the city’s Workplace Partnership Group, appointed by the mayor and City Council in November to develop recommendations for a sick time ordinance and consisting of representatives of business and workers.
“This is a huge win for the city and for workers like me,” said Chris Pennock, an hourly worker and member of Working America. “The ordinance reflects the needs that working people and community members highlighted at the ten-plus listening sessions I participated in as a member of the Workplace Partnership Group. What we heard was clear: Minneapolis working people need to be able to take time off to care for themselves or their families without losing pay. It’s incredibly exciting to see the Partnership’s efforts turn out a smart policy that will help Minneapolis stay healthy and productive.”
Over 100,000 people are expected to gain access to paid sick days under the new law. Workers at businesses with six or more employees will be able to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 worked, up to a maximum of 48 accrued hour per year. At businesses with five or fewer employees, the leave will be unpaid.
“I am happy that paid sick days is passing in Minneapolis because this is a huge help for us and our families,” said Pasqual Tapia, a CTUL member and janitor. “In my case, without paid sick days I can’t financially support my kids in Mexico who have chronic health conditions. It’s either my health or theirs that is jeopardized so this will be a huge relief.”
Earlier this month, 70 people shared emotional testimony with the City Council, overwhelmingly in support of the ordinance. On Thursday the City Council strengthened the proposed ordinance with amendments to ensure enforcement provisions and to cover casual nurses.
“As a registered nurse who worked casual in the city of Minneapolis for many years in order to take care of my family, I am thrilled by the unanimous agreement made today by the Minneapolis City Council,” said Charlotte Kava Zabawa, a nurse and member of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “From a public health perspective, it makes no sense for workers who handle food or care for infants or elderly patients to go to work sick.”
The city of St. Paul is also studying paid sick time and is expected to pass an ordinance by the end of the summer. Duluth is also considering a paid sick time ordinance.
“As a restaurant with multiple locations, I am happy to see a strong policy pass–it is a long awaited victory,” said Abdirahman Kahin, owner of Afro Deli. “This should set an example for St. Paul and the rest of Minnesota and work to ensure employees statewide have access to the same basic workplace protections.”
“Today’s final vote by the City Council to approve one of the strongest earned sick and safe time ordinances in the country represents the work of a movement of workers from throughout Minneapolis who harnessed the power of organizing to win the right to put their family’s health and wellbeing first,” said Dan McGrath, executive director of TakeAction Minnesota. “That organizing, and all of the organizations and individuals who came together helped to make today’s historic vote a reality and we have been proud to be part of it. However, for Minnesotans, this is only a first step toward healthier and more vibrant communities. We will continue our work with community members and elected leaders in St. Paul and Duluth to expand earned sick and safe time.”
Additional statements from workers, businesses, and community advocates follow below:
“Janitors in our union clean buildings housing some of the wealthiest corporations in the world. We see this immense wealth, but we also see far too many families in our city have to choose between the health of their family and their ability to pay the bills. I’m thankful the Council heard the voices of the workers and supporters, especially people of color, who came together to make this happen and look forward to continuing our fight for workers’ rights in Minneapolis and all around the state.”
— Julio Bravo, Minneapolis janitor and member of SEIU Local 26
“I was honored to represent the 8,000+ SEIU members who live and work in Minneapolis as a member of the Workplace Partnership Group that heard firsthand over the last five months why this policy is so important for working families in our city. This policy will make a real difference in the lives of many thousands of families, and I hope we can take the momentum from this historic victory and continue to make our city (and state) a more equitable and fair place for all of us.”
— Brian Elliott, Executive Director of SEIU Minnesota State Council and Workplace Partnership Group Member
“No worker should have to make the decision whether to rest and take care of themselves when they are sick or go to work when ill in order to take care of their family. As a registered nurse in Minneapolis, I am proud that soon no longer workers will need to make that decision.”
–Nurse and Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) member Madeline Gardner
“We know that workers are who make Minneapolis work—and in today’s new economy many workers, particularly women and people of color, lack access to a union and basic protections like earned sick and safe time. This policy shows that we can create a better balance to reflect our shared values of fairness. This is a step forward towards economic stability for many hard-working Minneapolis workers and their families.”
–Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou, President, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation
“ISAIAH leaders in Minneapolis were proud to stand with a powerful and smart coalition around earned sick and safe time! This is a great day for Minneapolis workers. We are hopeful that this summer St. Paul will follow and put a strong earned sick and safe time ordinance as well.”
“Our text and tradition emphasize the fair treatment of workers. Passing paid sick time is a big step in the right direction. We’re impressed by the workers, business owners, and organizations who’ve led the way in this process and the city council for their vote today.”
–Carin Mrotz of Jewish Community Action
“The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers would like to thank the City Council for doing the right thing for the students, families and educators in the city of Minneapolis.”
–Lynn Nordgren, President, MFT 59
“We are glad that the city council has passed a strong paid sick time ordinance that reflects the working group recommendations. This decision is right and good for our communities.”
–People of Color Union Members (POCUM)
“The sick pay ordinance passed today is a significant step in raising the basic standard of living for workers, and will help make our city a better, healthier, more equitable place. It is good for the people of our city, and that’s good for business. Thank you to the City Council and Mayor for leading on this important issue.”
–Danny Schwartzman, owner of Common Roots Cafe
“If workers are sick or need to care for a family member, they shouldn’t have to worry about losing their pay or their job. Earned sick and safe time will help hardworking families and businesses get ahead in Minneapolis.”
–Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME Council 5
“As President of the Minnesota Nurses Association, we applaud the Minneapolis City Council for their agreement today regarding an important public health issue, Earned Sick and Safe Time. We look forward to St. Paul and Duluth passing similar ordinances and for the day when every worker in Minnesota will have access to this much needed benefit.”
–Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) President Mary Turner