Hodges: Minneapolis must do more to help all

Mayor Betsy Hodges
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges delivers her State of the City address at the American Swedish Institute, Thursday, April 2, 2015.
Curtis Gilbert | MPR News

Downtown Minneapolis is booming with $2 billion in construction, but Mayor Betsy Hodges says many residents aren't feeling the economic benefits.

"The expectation that if you worked hard you could get ahead is now more myth than reality for low-income people and many people of color," Hodges said Thursday in her annual State of the City speech. "Even in Minneapolis, where we are famous for our class mobility, the mobility becomes very limited when we start looking at outcomes for people of color. This has to change. We can change it."

Hodges wants to require businesses to give employees sufficient notice before altering work schedules.

She also wants the city to step in when people work overtime and aren't paid for it and she called for more Minneapolis businesses to provide paid sick time. Currently, 42 percent of the people who work in the city don't get paid sick leave, she said, calling it a public health problem.

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"We as a community are creating an incentive for people to expose their colleagues and the public to illness," Hodges said. "Together, we need to provide an alternative incentive structure so that sick people can get well and well people can stay well."

Democrats have proposed similar measures this year at the Legislature, but the bills have little chance of making it through the Republican-controlled House. That won't be a problem in Minneapolis, where the DFL has a lock on city government.

The proposals come at a time when Hodges has been under pressure from liberal groups that want to see Minneapolis institute a citywide minimum wage of $15 an hour. Hodges doesn't support making a move like that unless neighboring cities do the same.

Ty Moore with the group 15 Now says that would be great, but it's never going to happen.

"I think that Minneapolis as the biggest city, as the city with the strongest labor movement, should act and lead," Moore said. "That would put tremendous pressure on St. Paul, Bloomington, the rest of the region to follow suit."

Business groups believe the council should take its time and listen to concerns from employers.

Rules to prohibit firms from making last-minute changes to worker schedules would be a major problem for companies like Target, said Steve Cramer president of the Downtown Council, a business group.

The issue came up Wednesday during a meeting between city leaders and several big Minneapolis-based companies, he added.

The Target representative said, "'We've got a very sophisticated scheduling system. We think it's fair to our people. But if something is imposed that's different from what we do, that could have negative and unintended consequences,'" Cramer recalled.

Cramer applauded Hodges for another part of her speech. She proposed a series of changes aimed at simplifying city regulations.