Senator Al Franken Joins Minnesota Members to Discuss Paid Sick and Safe Leave and Paid Family Leave

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Today, small business owners from Minneapolis and St Paul discussed earned sick and safe time and paid family leave policies with Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) at Birchwood Cafe in Minneapolis.

“Though very diverse, Minneapolis has some of highest income and racial disparities in our country. 52% of black workers and 68% of Latino workers across the city do not have access to earned sick time. This gap represents an enormous problem that affects all of us. As a business owner I'm willing to adjust our policies to support earned sick time as a way to take care of my employees and support the well-being of the greater community,” says Tracy Singleton, owner of Birchwood Café.

Julie Kearns, owner of Junket: Tossed and Found agreed, “When people lack economic security and have to worry about how they are going to make rent, or pay for a car repair, or buy food because their kid gets sick for a few days, the immediacy of their basic needs prevents them from thinking beyond getting through the crisis du jour. As a business owner, I am focused on social and environmental impact, and I recognize that people – including my customers – need to be economically stable before they can even think about buying from local companies who may not be able to compete on price alone.”

“I know what it’s like to live hand-to-mouth,” Kearns continued, “I’ve had to make difficult personal consumption choices during my first few years as the founder of a bootstrapped micro business. While cash is still tight for our company, I have chosen to implement sick days for my five employees as of January 2016 because the risks of not doing so overshadow the costs. Within the context of helping our communities become more resilient in anticipation of increased climate disruption, I consider this a moral imperative.”

Businesses located in St. Paul and Minneapolis talked about a paid sick days standard for the Twin Cities. “As St Paul begins to consider this ordinance, I am excited to be part of the conversation,” says Eric Foster, of Ward 6 in St Paul. “Nobody should be forced to go to work sick or worry about making rent if they stay home. We support a common sense approach, a new basic standard that will provide access to all workers.”

“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 not only feel this is fair treatment of our employees, but a sustainable approach that we’ve found has significant benefits, like minimal turnover of staff, which in turn saves us money and is good for our bottom line,” says Andy Pappacosta, events manager at Gandhi Mahal.

“Currently, we provide sick days for full-time staff, but we will expand it to all employees,” says Michelle Nordhougen, Human Resource Director, Brasa Rotisserie & Restaurant Alma, St Paul and Minneapolis. “This is about the respect and dignity that all deserve, to thrive in both their professional and personal environments.”  

“Having an employee-centric environment has always been at the core of our values. We believe that we do business to build the company we want to be a part of. For that reason, we added paid time off for hourly employees at the beginning of 2015,” says Jason Rathe, Field Outdoor Spaces.

Business owners also discussed support for the idea of paid family leave.  “In the past years, three of our upper-level management employees have had a baby,” says Singleton. “It would have been nice if they had the option to stay home, and a simple pooled system like family leave insurance would help us do that.”

The Main Street Alliance MN recently released a new report examining the impact studies of earned sick day ordinances across the country: The Bottom Line on Earned Sick Time: A Cost/ Benefit Analysis of Earned Sick Days on the Economy.  

In Minneapolis, the proposal for earned sick and safe time currently being considered and studied by 19 member Workplace Partnership Group organized by the city.  Similarly, the City of St Paul passed a resolution to create a task force to look at sick and safe leave policies and is hosting listening sessions for the public throughout the month of February.

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