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

At Wilde Café & Spirits, employees make or break our business, which is why we voluntarily implemented earned sick days. It’s also the right thing to do.

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in January, we had meaningful discussions with our own staff about what alterations they wanted to make to old, outdated policies which are, unfortunately, considered the norm for the food service industry.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.

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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.

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