More reader backlash over the Working Families Agenda

More readers weigh in on the impact the Working Families Agenda will have on restaurant industry staff.

More readers weigh in on the impact the Working Families Agenda will have on restaurant industry staff.

The issue has been raging for a few weeks now, but it's far from over. The Minneapolis City Council's decision to trot out a draft proposal for a new set of rules to be placed upon businesses of all kinds, referred to as the Working Families Agenda, has got small business, but mostly restaurant owners up in arms. We've been following the issue and you can read a brief recap here, or a more in-depth one here. We continue to receive reader feedback on our coverage, and on the proposal draft itself. Here are a few of the most recent reader comments: 

Ultimately, if servers are scheduled to work over time for some reason, of course, they should get overtime. However, it almost never happens, as managers are very careful to not let people get that many hours so they don't have to pay. So, if there are servers working overtime, it's rare, and I don't know that it will necessarily hurt the restaurant's pocket. That's another beauty of the industry. It certainly is possible to work a few days a week and do okay. Although the 11 hours between shifts is a good idea, servers may choose to work doubles or clopens and that's what they like about their job. They should have the choice.

-Nicole Sullivan 

Another meeting of business owners and city council members was held today in the Seward neighborhood. Interestingly, it was to be held at US Bank on Lake and 28th. It got changed the day before to La Nuevo Rodeo the day before. Most of the city council members had to leave halfway through due to a scheduling conflict. It was not a good showing by a group trying to get buy-in on paying "one hour of predictability pay for all employer-initiated changes after a schedule is posted.

-Greg Peterson 

We get it. You're re trying to help us. You're attempting to stick up for the poor, maligned restaurant workers. You sense unfairness and you are trying to right the wrongs. Your awareness is refreshing, and we appreciate it. Thank you, but, no thank you. The ordinance you are trying to pass is completely ridiculous, and here's why. It is painfully obvious that you did not consult with real, live employees. You could have avoided embarrassing yourselves with your well-intentioned blundering, if you'd taken a minute to bring yourselves to our level. The most blatantly stupid part is the requirement of 28-day schedules, with penalties for changing it. That is simply not how it works. The business is a living, thriving, moving animal, which is why many of us love it. If we wanted predictability, we'd be in a cubicle like everyone else. A 7-day window is all most of us require. What the hell is "predictability pay"? Who made that up? Do you really mean to tell me that in a state like Minnesota, with severely unpredictable weather, you're going to penalize my employer if they call off my shift? Thanks a lot. Now you've made certain I'll have to brave the icy roads and blizzards to get myself to work, even though there's no customers there. Why? It'll be cheaper to make me come in, risking life and limb, to avoid a 4-hour wage penalty. This whole concept is costly and stupidly unreasonable. Then there's the part about employers obtaining written consent to add hours onto a shift. What on earth are you talking about? That means when 30 bachelorettes on a party bus roll in unexpectedly, they'll have to wait an extra ten minutes for me to provide written consent to my manager before I take their drink order. That is simply not how things work.

There are a couple of things that make sense to me, from an employee (server) standpoint. They are, as follows: A 55 hour work week would be a welcome change to many managers, who are salaried and asked to work 65 or more hours every week. The lack of regulations regarding this issue should definitely be addressed. It doesn't really apply to hourly workers, as we aren't usually allowed to accrue overtime, even if we may want to. The "turn and burn" or "clopen" is a long-utilized method to make money quickly. Eleven hours between shifts is a great idea, but should not prohibit employees from choosing those shifts if they desire. Eleven hours between shifts should be an opt-in/opt-out decision made between employers and employees. One hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked is a nice, standard rule of thumb that we could all use. We touch utensils and wipe tables during the cold and flu season. Most of us could use a sick hour every once in a while. Please consider re-writing this ordinance with the help of a discussion panel. I urge you to consult with those of us who actually work in the business— many of us are quite smart and could be valuable assets if you're willing to listen.

-Sarah Norton  

I attended a meeting at the Mayflower Church where I heard a lot of angry and scared small business owners. Being so new to the business owner community and more specifically, the restaurant owner community, I wanted to be more informed. I went to listen and learn. There were a lot of very good points made in opposition to the proposed ordinance, with dozens of very important concerns about the details of the proposed regulations, but the city council members were not able to answer any of them at this point.

More interestingly however, the only people that spoke up in favor of the ordinance were two people who had been mistreated by large corporations. In fact, one claims that McDonald's forced her to work when she called in sick. The other claimed that Leann Chin fired her sister after she had an emergency C-section and couldn't return to work for 6 weeks. If large corporations are the culprits, breaking laws that already exist, why punish the small, local, independent companies with unrealistic administrative processes and impossible cost of employment? The City of Minneapolis is trying to do something good for workers, but they are fighting against their own agenda here. These regulations will shutter the doors of many small businesses. In turn, the big corporate chains will survive and thrive with less competition, and continue to mistreat their employees to improve the bottom line. I left a corporate career to pursue a dream and create something unique. I treat all of my employees with respect and pay the highest wages I can afford. I've poured everything I have into this place and an ordinance like this could take it all out from under me. Please keep the discussion going. Thanks!

-Craig Ball, Pilgrimage Cafe 

The only "agenda" that should be discussed is the city's agenda against the hospitality industry. I'm sorry we aren't living up to whatever ideal is in their heads. We do the best we can to give our staff a decent place to work and a living wage. What else can we do and remain in business that gives me a living wage too? I'm tired of wasting time on this as well. From what I've heard the council is ready to pass it no matter what anyone says. So call me anti-family if you must. I've got a restaurant to run.

-Tobie Nidetz, Prairie Dogs 

Many good points against the "Working Families Agenda" have already been made. One that I've yet to see: The proposal will only tilt the playing field further in favor of "fast casual" concepts (eg., Chipotle) with strong take-out components that have a predictable, steady volume of business and can staff accordingly without penalty. Likewise, new restaurant owners who have no baseline on which to anticipate cover volume will face a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation in regards to staffing at a time when they are most vulnerable. If I'm a fledgling restauranteur, I'm only considering take-out joints, should this be enacted.

An adjunct point: If I'm correct, then this won't do much for the majority of servers who prize their jobs for the relatively high income they can make while having the flexibility to pursue schooling, artistic vocations, their familial and social lives, etc. And let's face it, 99% of servers see their jobs as a means to something else based on that combination of income and flexibility, not a profession.

-Jay Henahan 

The Working Families Agenda is detrimental to small businesses here in Minneapolis. Minneapolis currently has one of the fastest growing culinary scenes in North America of which its life blood is made up of a collective of small business restauranteurs and employees. By implementing the changes proposed in the Working Families Agenda, this would cause many of our beloved restaurants to close simply because they could not afford to operate within the parameters specified. While I agree that this measure is protective in nature to the employees of, say, a larger enterprise, it does not bode well for many of us who work for small businesses. If passed this would in turn cause thousands of jobs to evaporate, leaving millions upon millions of dollars of potential economic growth untapped. For a city that is due to host the Superbowl in 2018 this Agenda is extremely shortsighted and unthoughtful not to mention downright disrespectful to those of us who cherish the environment that the restaurant community has provided here in Minneapolis. If this agenda passes in its current form, the City of Minneapolis is not just taking away jobs, they are taking away the security, flexibility, passion and creativity of one of the greatest culinary scenes in North America. As someone who has worked on both sides of the coin, both as front of house as a server and behind the scenes as management, I ask you Mayor Hodges to please reconsider this Agenda with our industry in mind.

-Nicholas Yund