An earlier version of this story did not clarify how small businesses would implement the policy.
The Minneapolis City Council on Wednesday put more firepower behind a proposal that would require employers to provide paid sick leave, drowning out criticism from business owners who worry the policy could cut deep into their bottom lines.
Strong support from the council reinforced the political popularity of the mandate, vetted over the past several months by a task force that included more than a dozen business representatives and workers. The group this week presented a 48-page report outlining its recommendations for a citywide policy.
The much-anticipated framework draws on sick-leave mandates enforced in nearly two dozen other U.S. cities. Like many of them, the preliminary plan would allow full- and part-time employees that work at least 80 hours per year in Minneapolis to accrue paid time off to take care of themselves or sick family members.
Workers would bank one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, per the recommendations presented Wednesday. Employers could require a 90-day wait before tapping into that time off and could set a 48-hour maximum on the hours accrued.
Advocates for the policy change, including Mayor Betsy Hodges and several council members, say the move is vital to promote equity across Minneapolis. More than 100,000 people working in the city – mainly low-wage workers and people of color – don’t have access to paid sick leave, according to the report.
But at a series of public meetings earlier this year, small business owners and other employers voiced skepticism that such a plan was necessary. Many questioned how a city requirement would cut into existing paid-leave plans, and balked at additional administrative costs.
Steve Cramer, who heads the Minneapolis Downtown Council and sat on the task force, was the lone opponent of the policy framework crafted by the 15-member panel. In a separate statement filed alongside the recommendations, he fired off a series of concerns.
In that document, Cramer cited the lack of an estimate on compliance costs that will be passed to the city and employers, and pointed to studies that show only modest public health benefits tied to similar ordinances adopted elsewhere. Cramer also questioned whether the policy would hamper business growth in Minneapolis, a city he said sits “at the center of an inter-connected regional economy” and has a workforce that is “more mobile than most,” including in other cities that have paid sick leave mandates.
“Under these circumstances, the possible negative impacts of creating an ‘economic island effect’ are significantly higher,” he wrote. “As Minneapolis stands out relative to the rest of the Twin Cities economy due to [the]higher cost of doing business and additional regulatory entanglements, the outcome could be job loss, job relocation and more limited future investment.”
The criticism mirrors skepticism throughout Minnesota’s business community. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the state’s most prominent business advocacy group, is pressing legislators this session to take action to thwart municipal mandates under consideration in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Lawmakers have tried for years to map out a statewide plan for paid sick leave, but efforts have so far stalled out.
To smooth out some business owners’ concerns, the Minneapolis recommendations include leeway for employers whose current policies more or less line up with what the city wants to see. In addition, small businesses – outfits with 24 or fewer employees – would get an extra six months to implement the policy.
Larger employers would have six months from the date of adoption to line up their benefits.
The City Council accepted the recommendations on Wednesday, but the timetable for a firmed-up ordinance remains murky. The council will outline next steps for the paid sick leave plan later this week.
Questions about specific enforcement loom, and would need to be taken up by the City Council. Based on widespread words of encouragement from council members on Wednesday, it’s a challenge they’re ready to take on.
Council member Jacob Frey said the recommendations provide “quite a bit of cohesion.” Others lauded what they saw as compromises between business owners’ concerns and the need for broader benefits.
“I think you’ve come up with a very balanced approach here, and it’s going to be incredibly meaningful for the people of our city,” council member Andrew Johnson told the task force.
The prospective requirement is part of a broader equity agenda introduced by the mayor nearly a year ago. On Wednesday, Hodges pitched the recommendations as a solid foundation for ongoing talks.
“This is one of the most important political considerations we will make together as a leadership team in our four years together,” she said. “There’s a lot of good that we can work with here.”
Minneapolis needs more time to evaluate sick leave mandate
St. Paul picks up sick leave issue stalled at Capitol
Small businesses challenge Minneapolis sick leave mandate
Minneapolis sick leave recommendations
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