St. Paul to explore mandatory paid leave for private employers

MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Mayor Chris Coleman chatting with attendees at Tuesday morning's joint breakfast of the St. Paul and Minneapolis chambers of commerce.

St. Paul may follow the lead of neighboring Minneapolis and create a task force to look into mandatory paid-time-off policies.

In response to a question at a joint breakfast of the St. Paul and Minneapolis chambers of commerce Tuesday, Mayor Chris Coleman said he had been planning to announce a two-part response to calls for local paid-leave requirements.

“I don’t want to blow the headline on Thursday,” Coleman joked. “We were going to have kind of a release.”

But he went on the give details of a proposal which would first have the city provide paid leave to its own workers.

“First of all, the city of St. Paul is going to lead by example,” Coleman said. “We’re going to make sure every city employee  — whether they are a permanent employee or whether they are a temporary or seasonal worker — has some ability to earn sick and safe leave time.” All full time and regular part time workers in the city already accrue sick leave. By 2017, an addition 1,018 temporary workers and 700 Right Track interns will gain that benefit.

Coleman said he would then expand the conversation of the issue to include the business sector. He said he would ask the City Council to create a task force that would work to get recommendations back the mayor and council  by June, to look into a city policy that would apply to private employers.

“We hope that by leading by example we can work with our other business community partners to also kind of take this one,” Coleman said. “Most of all we have reached out to Matt [Kramer, St. Paul Chamber president] and others to say we want to have that community conversation with business owners at the table so that we can understand the benefits, the opportunities, the challenges to earned sick and safe leave and to provide that to all workers in the city of St. Paul, whether they work for the city or work for a private employer.”

Tuesday afternoon, the city issued a press release from Coleman and the city council with more details on the process. The council will consider a resolution Feb. 3 that will create the task force to consider extending paid sick leave to private sector workers in the city. That group, appointed by the mayor and the council, will report to the Human Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That commission will then make a recommendation to the council and mayor.

“When daycare calls and you have to go pick up your sick child, you shouldn’t have to worry about losing your job,” said Council President Russ Stark in the release. “People working in all kinds of jobs should have some basic protections.”

Earlier in the chambers’ breakfast presentation, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges spoke about her city’s ongoing process to create a local ordinance on paid leave. Hodges had three appointees on the 19-member Workplace Partnership.

“People want a level playing field, but it is also a public health issue,” Hodges said. “If we make people choose between getting well and getting paid, people are going to choose getting paid over getting well.”

She said once the work group brings a recommendation back to the City Council, she and the council will work to find a solution. Hodges pledged to listen to and continue working with the business community on the issue, as she did on the topic of fair scheduling that had been part of her Working Families Agenda in the fall.

“It was hard and we did not find a way to solve a problem that did not create more problems than it solved,” Hodges said of the fair-scheduling proposal. “When that became crystal clear — and many of you used your voices to point that out — I want to be clear that I heard you, that I listened and it’s off the table.

“There are a lot of people mad at me about that, but it was the right thing to do, given the situation,” Hodges said. “But there’s still a problem, but we have yet to find a solution to that problem.”

(This story was updated with numbers of city workers who would benefit from changes and with details released Tuesday afternoon from Coleman and the city council about the process for a paid leave task force.)

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Richard Callahan on 01/26/2016 - 01:02 pm.

    Regardless of the merits of paid time off, or any other employer benefit, I can’t figure why it’s city business.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 01/26/2016 - 11:36 pm.

      Because

      When employees carrying infectious diseases are forced to report for duty at businesses that serve the general public, it becomes my, yours, and the city’s problem. This is a public health issue, not an employer rights issue. If employers were so concerned with keeping the long arm of the gub’mint at bay, perhaps they might consider implementing such a plan on their own, sadly I doubt that will occur.

      • Submitted by Richard Callahan on 01/27/2016 - 11:31 am.

        So if an employee has paid time off, and comes to work ill anyway, will they be fined? Will the city intervene in this case to protect your and my health?

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 01/27/2016 - 02:45 pm.

          Depends

          I would imagine that would be a case where proper management would play a role, if the employer has leave, and the employer does not send them home, I can see a place for enforcement on the employer side. It should be their perogative to educate their workforce as to proper conduct in order to ensure compliance.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/26/2016 - 01:11 pm.

    Coleman’s objective

    has always been to make St. Paul a city of, by and for government bureaucrats and the people who depend on them.

  3. Submitted by Robert Ryan on 01/26/2016 - 11:08 pm.

    Bring back unions!

    Wealthy corporate interests spent the last 50 years destroying unions and the union movement. So instead of engaging in collective bargaining, people turned to government to try to improve working conditions.

  4. Submitted by joe smith on 01/28/2016 - 09:40 am.

    The unions spent the last 50 years eliminating themselves. The need for power by big unions, huge salaries for upper management and policies that ended up hurting their workforce (fully vested at an early age, unsustainable retirement packages, inability of employer to fire terrible workers once tenure is reached and many more). The greed and policies of unions did themselves in they didn’t need help from wealthy corporate interests.

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