Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

Community Voices features opinion pieces from a wide variety of authors and perspectives. (Submission Guidelines)

Paid sick leave a win-win for city and local businesses

As 13-year owners of a Minneapolis restaurant – Wilde Café and Spirits (formerly the Wilde Roast Café) – we have long understood that our employees are not just the most essential part of our business’s success, they are the spirit of our restaurant.

Our employees are responsible for nearly every forward-facing aspect of the operation, from the food, to the service, to the atmosphere. They are what drive our guests to either become faithful customers or resolve never to return. In short, our employees hold the power to make or break us. Investing in them is the most important decision that we make, period.

When our employees are secure in their lives – when they know they can take the necessary time to heal either physically or mentally without risk of losing their job, when they have the ability to care for their loved ones in need – they are able to relax, focus, and be confident in their work.

This is why, beginning in January, we had meaningful discussions with our own staff about what alterations they wanted to make to old, outdated policies which are, unfortunately, considered the norm for the food service industry. Following these discussions, we implemented our own paid safe and sick time: for every 30 hours worked, employee receives one hour of paid time off. We have yet to see a dramatic increase in our labor costs because of this change (in fact, none of our employees have used their days yet), but we already know that the benefits will outweigh our costs.

We voluntarily implemented earned sick days because we believe it’s the right thing to do. It is a benefit that all workers, regardless of business size or industry, should have access to.  A citywide ordinance that ensures all workers have a baseline standard of sick days just makes sense.

While Minneapolis’s Working Families Agenda was far from perfect, the city had its heart in the right place when it proposed the policy last fall, attempting to support often overworked and underpaid employees. 

The Minneapolis City Council did the right thing this year when it stepped back and convened the Workplace Partnership Group, which included small business owners, to collaborate on a policy that both supported employees and was workable for employers.

The recommendations put forward by the Partnership Group are similar to the steps we took at Wilde Café earlier this year, and we will modify our policies accordingly. It is in that spirit that we encourage the city council to implement the compromised recommendations of the Partnership Group, and pass a policy that will be a win-win for small businesses and workers.

The Editors: On May 27, the Minneapolis City Council is scheduled to vote whether to adopt a mandatory paid leave ordinance for private and nonprofit employees. If it passes, Minneapolis would be the first city in the state to adopt such a policy.

Tom DeGree and Dean Schlaak are the owners of Wilde Café & Spirits, located in Minneapolis.

Want to add your voice?

If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, email Susan Albright at

Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by joe smith on 05/18/2016 - 09:01 am.

    Fantastic for you

    You decided paid sick days was right for your business, that is great. It is your business, you took the risks to get it started and can run it any way you choose. The person across the street may not want to run his business like you, again his right. In the end the consumer decides who succeeds and fails in a free market by spending their hard earned money on the best product and experience.

    • Submitted by Brian Scholin on 05/18/2016 - 10:01 am.

      But Not for Society, Maybe?

      And if the person across the street decides not to follow proper sanitary standards, or protect credit card information, or keep his establishment up to fire safety standards, is that also his right? He’ll make more profit, and perhaps that’s his goal. Why should the rest of us care? Unless we also care about the harm caused to other people…

      • Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 05/18/2016 - 10:18 am.


        Just a slight “overreach” in comparisons, don’t you think?

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/18/2016 - 10:56 am.

          How is forcing employees

          To work sick, exposing their fellow employees as well the public at large any different from the above examples? If you are under the impression that this doesn’t occur, I have no cure for naivete.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 05/18/2016 - 11:16 am.

        So making the decision not to pay for sick leave

        Is the same as not keeping up your bathrooms, not having fire standards and not following credit card procedures? I have news for you, if you are in business and that is the service you are giving to your customers, you will not be in business long. Again, it is called free market where you go with your hard earned money to get the best experience for your buck.

        • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 05/18/2016 - 03:50 pm.

          It’s a restaurant. They serve food there. I’d prefer the cook to stay home rather than sneeze all over my entree because sick leave to stay home isn’t available.

          And yes. That’s in the *public* good.

  2. Submitted by Tim Milner on 05/18/2016 - 09:38 am.


    on setting up a plan that is good for your employees.

    I have been in business for 24+ years and I, too, strongly believe in the value of our 70+ employees. I, too, meet frequently with them to discuss issues surrounding pay and benefits.

    But what is frustrating the hell out of me is that some of the things my employees want are going against the grain of what the government is mandating.

    We have always been a slightly above average hourly wage, excellent medical benefits, very good miscellaneous benefits (vacation, sick leave, PTO, long and short term disability, dental, etc) plus the potential for an annual bonus based on sales. It seems to be a valued compensation plan – I have many employees with over 20+ years with us.

    Yet the mandated change in minimum wage forced me to adjust the base pay scale by $2 across the board to maintain the difference we want to have been our skilled employees and those entering the labor market at minimum wage.

    Our medical plan will be subject to the “Cadillac tax” (assuming it is not repealed by 2018) because its costs a lot to provide the coverages that our employees want. Not really sure what that will be costing us but I am guessing it will likely mean a far less generous health plan than what the employees currently have.

    These adds will definitely effect the annual bonus as we are not in an industry that can readily pass on cost increases to our customers via price increases.

    So how do you think my employees will feel when all these government mandates are implemented and I am forced to redo my compensation plan in a way that, quite frankly, they are not going to like as well?

    I hope that someone at the federal, state and local levels will come in an explain it to them that its not my choice, but the governments, that our companies compensation plan has to change.

    • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 05/18/2016 - 11:50 am.

      This proposed mandate provides a minimum of protection for those hourly-wage employees at the bottom of the scale. If you had to react to a small increase to Minnesota’ absurdly-low minimum wage by shifting everybody upward to maintain a class status, then you had people at the bottom who were not earning enough to live on. You can go on and on about bonuses (bonuses, for minimum-wage folks? good for you, in being unique!) and “average” wages. But the proposed change to require something decent for those workers–not just employees: WORKERS–is ot going to break your business, or anyone else’s.

      Thanks to the two entrepreneurs in one of the toughest businesses out there who wrote this article about how their business is faring. Their respect for their staff is welcome.Long may they reign (with their great restaurant!).

      The mandate is necessary, though, because too few businesses are like these guys and implement voluntary benefit systems. When “voluntary” doesn’t work, it is the government’s job to step in and mandate decency of conditions for workers at the bottom of the scale.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/18/2016 - 02:21 pm.

        No it’s not

        “When “voluntary” doesn’t work, it is the government’s job to step in and mandate decency of conditions for workers at the bottom of the scale.”

        No it’s not. When voluntary doesn’t work, it’s probably a bad idea.

        If government wants to help they could improve the education of the students in their charge so they don’t have to rely on minimum wage jobs for their livelihood. Otherwise, let the market decide what’s in the best interest of the economy.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/18/2016 - 04:15 pm.

          Get back to us when

          You get a direct line to the “market”, that entity that serves as deity to those of the conservative persuasion. There are lots of things that aren’t profit making enterprises, or for which the profit is so minimal as not to be practical for private enterprise to undertake. Contrary to your opinion, money isn’t the only measure of value in our society, necessity is also a pretty powerful consideration. I’m sure rural America enjoys electricity for example. Not to mention natural monopoly in things like power and water service, lest of course you prefer thousands of service lines for each to every municipality or digging up your lines every time you’d like to change service providers. Public health IS in the purview of government responsibility and despite the cries of protest coming from those hellbent on exploiting every last red cent from their low wage employees, this IS a public health issue, period.

  3. Submitted by Jerilyn Jackson on 05/18/2016 - 06:25 pm.

    No one who works full time should be living in poverty.

    Raising the minimum wage is a moral imperative. If a business’s business model depends on their employees not earning a living wage, they deserve to fail. Same goes for paid leave.

  4. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/18/2016 - 09:08 pm.


    Of course the real question is why high minimum wage has no bearing on the poverty level…. Just compare Minnesota with the western states There is always something else government can mandate for the common goods… and then we run out of toilet paper. By the way, I am not specifically against mandated sick leave; I am against advocating unlimited government involvement.

    • Submitted by Chris Farmer-Lies on 05/20/2016 - 09:48 am.

      From the linked article.

      “Among the factors that are common to the poorest states in the United States are high employment rates, low minimum wages, a social services safety net that are deficient and low minimum wages.”

Leave a Reply