Congressmen Keith Ellison and Bobby Scott joined small business owners on Tuesday at a “High Roads” business lunch at Gandhi Mahal Restaurant in Minneapolis to discuss the economic and community benefits of taking the "high road" approach to doing business.
The business owners in attendance discussed how they live their values in their business practices, and how higher wages and benefits can be profit enhancers, rather than obstacles to profit.
“We focus on sustainability in every sense of the word, including how to treat and work with our employees. We guarantee our employees $15.00/hr to make sure that we have family-supporting wages” said Andy Pappacosta, events manager at Gandhi Mahal. “When our employees have a short term illness, they are paid for those shifts so that they don’t worry about making rent or paying the bills. We feel this is not only fair treatment of our employees, but a sustainable approach that we’ve found has significant benefits, like a very low turnover of staff, which in turn saves us money and is good for our bottom line.”
Andy and the staff at Gandhi Mahal were joined by Minneapolis business owners; Tracy Singleton, of Birchwood Café, Jason Rathe, of Field Outdoor Spaces, Dean Schlaak, of Wilde Roast Café, Lonnie McQuirter, of Lyn 36 Service Center, and Julie Kearns, of Junket: Tossed and Found.
The group discussed the somewhat controversial “working families agenda” proposed last spring in the City of Minneapolis aimed at alleviating racial and economic job disparities and creating a better quality of life for residents. The businesses in attendance and many others across the city support a common sense approach to a city-wide ordinance for earned sick and safe time in Minneapolis.
“Having an employee-centric environment has always been at the core of our values. We believe that we do business in order to build the company we want to be a part of” said Jason Rathe, owner of Field Outdoor Spaces. “For example, we added paid time off for hourly employees at the beginning of 2015.”
Rathe was one of the several businesses to discuss scheduling with his employees and alter current practices. “We used to encourage our crews to finish up projects when they could so that they could start a new project the next day. After reflecting on the goals of the Minneapolis Working Family Agenda, we realized that this unknown end to the day was putting stress on employee's lives and were not really gaining anything from it. The job would still be there in the morning. So we changed our workday- now we require that crews return by our designated end time, 6:00 pm.”
“The current debate over sick time is still mired in myths and fear about the costs of earned sick days, which creates a highly unproductive debate. In reality, good wages and benefits and profits are not mutually exclusive, and many businesses know this and operate accordingly,” said Julie Kearns, owner of Junket, Tossed & Found.
In addition to convening members and legislators to discuss the policy proposal the Main Street Alliance of Minnesota recently released a new report examining the impact of earned sick day ordinances across the country titled The Bottom Line on Earned Sick Time: A Cost / Benefit Analysis of Earned Sick Days on the Economy.
The Minneapolis proposal for earned sick and safe time is currently being considered and studied by the 19-member Workplace Partnership Group organized by the city.