Minnesota Republicans vote to take away cities’ right to mandate sick leave


While small businesses in Minneapolis and St. Paul generally support paid sick leave, big businesses have successfully lobbied the Republican-controlled legislature to sabotage better working conditions. Neighborhoods Organizing for Change

Minneapolis and St. Paul have both decided to mandate paid sick leave for most everyone who works in the cities. The idea is that everyone should have the right to take off from work without fear of being fired or losing essential pay when they are ill.

Hard-fought paid sick leave laws have been controversial. Business owners have raised the alarm that they'll move to the suburbs where there are no such regulations. In the end, lawmakers in both cities decided to assume the financial risks to ease the lives of low-wage workers and increase their buying power.

Many small businesses supported these laws. Others, including large corporations represented by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, did not. They sued Minneapolis last fall, claiming the city had overreached it regulatory powers.

In response, Republicans introduced a bill this session called the Uniform State Labor Standards Act, which would cancel the Twin Cities’ ordinances and prevent other cities from following suit. And most of those lawmakers are from outside Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The bill, which passed a House committee last week, advanced in the Senate on Monday as well.

Steve Rush, a lawyer for Holiday Companies, says it would be very expensive for the Bloomington convenience store chain to keep track of how much paid sick time its mobile employees earn when they travel between cities that have mandated benefits and those that don’t.

“Compliance with these local ordinances, past or contemplated, is extremely difficult,” Rush said. “For paid sick and safe leave, much concern has been expressed about counting the time of an employee who is not based working in a city but occasionally spends time there. Holiday has petroleum drivers, bakery delivery drivers, IT professionals, me, and other colleagues that spend various intermittent amounts of time in the various cities, and it would be very difficult to accurately keep track of that time.”

Other big businesses claimed the same. 

Yet a number of small business owners, as well as Minneapolis Councilwoman Elizabeth Glidden, urged legislators to let cities make their own choices.

Jason Rathe of Field Outdoor Services in Minneapolis says the city’s small business community is flourishing because people from all over Minnesota and the United States are drawn to its progressive, worker-friendly business environment.

“The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are experiencing a business renaissance. The state should not be stepping in and dictating what is best for Minneapolis and St. Paul. We have energetic businesses that are committed to the wellbeing of our community,” Rathe said. “We have citizens that vote in high numbers and stay up to date on important issues. We have a great energy right now in Minneapolis and St. Paul.” 


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