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Minneapolis can ease disparities by lifting workplace standards

There are clear solutions to right these wrongs and make Minneapolis work for all its residents, workers and businesses.

Over the last 50 years, the average American workplace has changed a lot, but workplace policies haven’t kept up. Service sector jobs are up, and union membership is down. The very rich are doing better than ever, while working families find it harder and harder to pay the bills. In Minnesota, this leads to some of the worst racial economic divides in the nation. But in Minneapolis, working people, led by people are color, are fighting back. That is why we are coming together as part of the #MPLSWorks campaign to call for fair scheduling, earned sick time, an end to wage theft, and a $15 minimum wage.

Rod Adams

Today’s changing workplace is devastating for too many working families, especially those who rely on hourly jobs to make ends meet. In Minnesota, three out of five workers employed in the formal economy are paid by the hour. Many of these jobs create challenges for workers who care for their families: inconsistent work schedules, no access to earned sick time, low wages, and stolen wages. We have seen firsthand the consequences of lacking these basic standards on the job.

Illustrations of the problems

One of us, Rod Adams, experienced the dangers facing working people when they don’t have basic protections like Earned Safe and Sick Time or Fair Scheduling:

When working at Old Country Buffet, I cut my hand while working. Despite the fact that the hospital told me to rest my hand for a few days, my boss told me I had to come in to work or lose my job. I didn’t have paid sick days and couldn’t afford to lose my job. I worked in excruciating pain. When I worked at Chipotle, I had to work the closing shift till 2 am and then come in to open at 7 am for about $8/hour. I had only a few hours for sleep or schoolwork in between shifts. I looked up laws online because I was sure there was something to protect us from this–but there was nothing there. You’re at the peril of these corporations.

Lucilia Dominguez

One of us, Lucilia Dominguez, has experienced wage theft, something that impacts far too many workers in Minneapolis:

For years I worked as a janitor, jumping from company to company trying to find a place that pays fair wages and does not steal workers’ wages. Finally I decided to stop changing jobs, but to change the job where I was. Now I work with Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) and have helped dozens of workers who have experienced wage theft to get the money they are owed.

We know that we aren’t alone. This summer, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) conducted a survey of hourly workers in north Minneapolis. Less than a quarter had received a day of paid sick time. Over half reported that they receive their schedules a week or less in advance. In fact, 17 percent stated they found out their work schedule with less than 24 hours’ notice. This is especially challenging for single parents, who have to arrange child care on a moment’s notice.

Clear solutions

Thankfully, there are clear solutions to right these wrongs and make Minneapolis work for all its residents, workers and businesses. 

The #MPLSWorks campaign kicked off last month, calling on the City of Minneapolis to guarantee earned sick time for all workers, create a fair workweek, end wage theft and raise the minimum wage.

This Labor Day, let’s commit to fixing a system that is creating some of the worst racial disparities in the country. Minneapolis has the opportunity to address these divides by lifting workplace standards. We hope everyone, from minimum wage workers to small businesses to giant corporations making billions in profits from the talent of Minneapolis workers, will join us in calling on the City of Minneapolis to pass these important policy proposals this year.

Rod Adams (Neighborhoods Organizing For Change) and Lucilia Dominguez (Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha) are organizing to improve working conditions in Minneapolis and beyond through the #MPLSWorks campaign. 

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by James Hamilton on 09/05/2015 - 12:39 pm.

    Organize and bargain

    instead of relying on government to set working conditions. You’ll fare better in the long run.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 09/08/2015 - 08:30 am.

      But conservatives hate that!

      Conservatives hate unions!

      Of course, conservatives also hate it when the government enables protective legislation for workers’ rights.

      Oh heck – conservatives pretty much just hate anything workers do to try and protect themselves.

      Not sure what they have in mind to propose as an alternative . . . . . . .

  2. Submitted by Beth Daniels on 09/07/2015 - 11:12 pm.

    Raising standards for hourly workers – YES!!

    If you haven’t worked an hourly-wage job — or if it’s been a long time — this article gives a clear understanding of how unfair these jobs have become. I stand in solidarity with the brave workers who are fighting for working conditions that so many of us take for granted. It’s time for Minneapolis — and in fact the whole state, and ultimately the nation — to enshrine fair working conditions as everyone’s right. And yes, support workers’ rights organize and bargain without fear of reprisals. #MPLSWorks

  3. Submitted by Bob Petersen on 09/08/2015 - 07:14 am.

    Wage theft?

    So now business owners that have created jobs are stealing? Nothing like biting the hand that feeds you.
    If you think you are not being paid fairly or don’t like the conditions you are working in, you have every right to leave for another job. There is no right that someone has to give you a job at a wage you demand.
    The entitlement mentality never ceases to amaze.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 09/08/2015 - 08:28 am.

      Look it up

      “Wage theft” has a very specific meaning. It would have been helpful had that been included in the article, but since it wasn’t, here you go:

      You can Google for more information about what “wage theft” is. It has absolutely nothing to do with “the entitlement mentality”.

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