“One Minneapolis” was the campaign theme that carried Minneapolis’ last mayoral election. It was no political platitude. Then-candidate and Councilmember Betsy Hodges vowed to address the racial inequities in Minneapolis, some of the largest in the nation. She recognized the reality of far too many working people across our town: unpredictable scheduling, no ability to earn sick days, and wage theft. Her campaign pledged action on addressing these gaps, and she is pursuing solutions to the urgent challenges facing low-wage working families.
But recently, this effort has come under fire from the Star Tribune editorial board, former campaign opponents, and some business groups. Mayor Hodges deserves credit, not criticism, for proposing the common-sense solutions of the Working Families Agenda.
Our economy is failing to provide opportunities for too many families who struggle every day to make ends meet. Working families in Minneapolis and across the country have faced stagnating wages for the last 35 years, and have trouble balancing demands at home and on the job.
A bad choice
Too often, hourly workers have to decide between going to work sick or losing income. Workers bring their colds and flus to work because they have no other choice. This should concern us all. The Minnesota Department of Health estimated that since 2004 at least 208 outbreaks of foodborne illness were the result of employees working while sick.
Too often, hourly workers do not have enough advance notice of their schedule or their number of hours to plan and pay for child care, rent, or groceries. Employees need fair scheduling practices that allow them to better plan their lives.
Too often, hourly workers face unpaid wages or denial of overtime wages, with many workers afraid to speak up out of fear of retaliation. Wage theft costs workers billions of dollars a year and employers who engage in these practices should be held accountable.
All should benefit from city’s prosperity
Minneapolis isn’t alone in grappling with these problems. In Congress, I was proud to work with the Congressional Progressive Caucus to push for President Barack Obama’s executive orders requiring paid sick leave for federal contractors and requiring that labor violations, including wage theft, be taken into account when awarding federal contracts.
Minneapolis is a great city, and all of our residents should benefit from its prosperity. Fairness for workers is a value we share, revealed in a recent poll showing that 91 percent of Minneapolis residents support an earned sick and safe time policy.
It’s time to come together as a community to do the work necessary to address our shameful economic divides. Enacting the Working Families Agenda is one of many necessary steps that will help us truly become “One Minneapolis.”
Rep. Keith Ellison represents Minnesota’s 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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