Our story on the Minneapolis City Council "Working Families Agenda" proposal touched a nerve with many people across the metro area. Small business owners say the worst part about the potential ordinance is that the most egregious workers'-rights offenders are large companies that will be able to absorb the potential ramifications of the changes.
Others are offering reminders that the proposal didn't come out of nowhere — instead, hundreds of service workers have approached the city with concerns over their rights, spurring action on the draft proposal.
Who is correct? Will some middle ground be reached so that the changes are not so onerous as to disrupt the growth of small business in Minneapolis, especially in the food service sector? Or, will restaurant owners simply have to adjust, as they have in other municipalities where similar ordinances have been enacted, such as in Connecticut?
Here are some of the best letters and comments from readers:
I really appreciate your article. If you have been to any of these meetings with city council people and the business community, there are even servers that are pissed. They like the the idea of the sick time, but the honest impression of the bill is that it lacks business common sense. I would really like to point out one main factor: The restaurant and bar community are very well networked and established. But what about all the other companies? What about the construction, lawn care, landscaping, and building trades that are weather dependent? How is someone in the snow plow business supposed to schedule working for snow removal 28 days in advance? Business will just move outside to Minneapolis. It will hurt us all. The city and Jacob Frey talked about "removing roadblocks" in his election redirected, and this is just an example of adding another one.
Hey! About the new proposal - yikes! Wondering if you have anymore information on future meetings, and how the public would likely best influence the panel decision. I am a server of almost 13 years and something like sick pay sounds nice, since it's always joked about. But most people don't want a schedule a month in advance. It's actually outrageous. I think I enjoy the flexibility the most, and my place of employment has been great with working around my school schedule. Really we don't need overtime either — I think most servers do just fine. (Although minimum wage needs that hike).
A restaurant is not a factory. It cannot plan its labor demand based on an order backlog. It does the best job it can to guess how many customers will show up given weather, events, construction, traffic, the draw of nearby shows and whether reservations get made or cancelled. If the Minneapolis City Council can guarantee that customers will schedule themselves to come into the restaurant in an orderly and on-time fashion, then it can require guaranteed shifts for the convenience of the labor it takes to serve them. Given that customers are expected to pay 20% on top of the menu prices for the privilege of having food carried to their table, they'll no doubt be quite pleased to show up when the restaurant needs them to be there, so that shifts can be predictable for restaurant staff. We'll done, city council. The one element of coverage missed in the article is the exception in the proposed ordinance for workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement. You need to look a little deeper at who created the impetus for this. Did restaurant workers organize and demand this of their owners? Or now that our economy has been bleeding 40-hour-a-week factory and production jobs for years, is this the Union looking for members? Our increasingly service-based economy is not capable of creating the middle class incomes, predictability, benefits and long term security people want/need. Villifying all owners for the abuses of a few, or because owners can't control market forces, is seriously shortsighted. Are we as a customer base willing to pay the cost for a meal out that it will take to make food service jobs equivalent in pay and benefits to 40 hour a week production jobs?
This article in no way gives voice to the workers — the people actually being oppressed in this situation. It addresses the fact that restaurants are booming in Minneapolis and creating lots and lots of jobs. But this plethora of jobs with unpredictable schedules isn't doing anything for people needing work.
I support the working families language. Poor and working people deserve better treatment. This article is a hatchet job. Are we seriously expected to believe that "small restaurateurs," those operating on tiny profit margins will "take their restaurants out of state"? That really doesn't make any sense. And if there is an exodus of incensed restaurateurs then the vacuum should quickly be filled by businesses that can offer basically respectful working conditions to their employees.
Without getting too much into the root cause of these issues, or taking my explanation all the way back to the big bank bailout (those are ultimately to blame for these side effects to our economy), I will say I fully confidently support this measure. I will sum it up with this: I am sick of seeing friends and co-workers bringing packets of ramen to work, rushing to eat them before their shift begins, not because they have any particular penchant for roast beef flavored egg noodles, but because they literally are choosing between eating and paying bills. I said it before and I'll say it again, not everyone has the luxury (like the priviledged ones who will read this and bash me for what I'm about to say) to choose a new employer or a new career path. You aren't living it? Great. Then don't pretend to understand why this measure is not only necessary but timely! Businesses don't deserve to BE in business if they can't treat their employees with a little MF respect.
I have friends who have worked at several nice local restaurants where the owner basically demands that they are available to work at anytime for the 12-16 hours they are open, so they can have fewer people on payroll, making it impossible to coordinate a second job but will cut them instantly if they get to 25 or 28 hours a week, which is not enough hours to pay rent. This proposal actually allows people to put together 40 hours of work by having a schedule far enough in advance to coordinate with a second job. There may be a better way to administer than the 28 day notice but workers need to be able to plan in order to have a life and pay the rent.
This kind of sounds like a great proposal, except for maybe the 28 days in advance scheduling. Basically the onerous burden that restaurant owners would need to bear is just to be more organized (in the administrative sense of the word — sounds they are already organized enough as a group to try to lobby their way out of this). The "this is how it's always been" argument is, and has always been, super weak.
I'm hopeful that there's some middle ground to be found with this proposal. I'm also a little irritated about the tone of the article and the "Campus Burger" analogy. How many servers are actually college students? We all did lots of things in college that we tolerated because one day college was going to end, and we were hoping that would end; and we'd get jobs with predictable shifts, insurance, sick time, and vacation. For people with children, how is there ANY reasonable expectation that they're going to be able to find evening child care on 12 hours notice? Or even 48? And yay "tidal wave of jobs." But a big "Boo" to jobs with no respect or dignity for the employee.
-Selke Maggie Mae Brewer
Love it! City Pages, unabashedly liberal publication, pointing out how the government (the liberal's savior) is going to hurt the businessman. Wow! Heads must be spinning in the editorial department. Rush had it right way back in 1978. Re-listen to “The Trees.” Trying to make everything equal (not everything has to be equal to be “fair”) cuts everyone down. Liberalism will eat itself.
This agenda in a nutshell: "Businesses have to plan for their employees to have a life outside of work, and make sure that sick people aren't cooking food." My heart bleeds, really it does. Everywhere in the world except the US works this way. It's time for the US to get with the 21st century.
-Katie Berger Tremaine ·
Yes, we should only worry about the business owner! Forget the worker's rights. Who cares if industry workers can't take time off and who cares if their schedules get changed like crazy (which right now they do). In fact as an owner I should have the right to make you stay hours past your scheduled shift if I want or fire you if you don't. Screw worker rights, only rights for business owners cause they are the only important people!