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Mpls. City Council gets an earful on paid sick leave proposal

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Rod Adams rallies for paid sick leave
Rod Adams, a worker's rights organizer with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, speaks at a rally Wednesday on the steps of Minneapolis City Hall before a public hearing on an ordinance that could mandate paid sick time for many workers in the city.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Minneapolis City Council members heard from the public Wednesday on the city's proposal to mandate paid time off for what could be tens of thousands of workers across the city.  

A push for a $15 an hour minimum wage in Minneapolis faltered in 2014, and a plan to mandate predictable scheduling failed last year. 

The current leave proposal would require paid sick leave for anyone who employs six or more people in the city.

Dave Amundson has been running TreHus Builders in south Minneapolis for 34 years and has 21 people working for the company.

He told the council about the difficulty of complying with regulations, providing health care and benefits. Amundson said he tries to do the right thing by his employees, instead of relying on independent subcontractors, like many of his competitors.

"With laws like this and others coming I'm sure, I will become more expensive, and they will not, "Amundson said. "Therefore, I have fewer opportunities for work, and the fewer opportunities I have for work, the fewer opportunities I can give to people to be employed. And that's just the way the world works." 

A string of other business owners and managers followed, saying that they can't recoup the costs from fixed health care reimbursement rates, that they already pass a heavy tax burden onto their customers, and that a mobile, temporary work force may be all but impossible to regulate by city ordinance. Others pleaded that their employees earn most of their pay as tips, and paid leave won't cover that loss anyway.

But both inside the council chambers and at a rally before the hearing, workers who don't have sick pay called for action. They said low-wage workers need to be able to take care of their sick kids and themselves, and still be able to pay their bills.

Tyrone Spencer, of Minneapolis, told the crowd outside that he recently got sick and told his boss at an Arby's restaurant that he had to go to the hospital.

"When I came back, he was doing everything he can do to get back at me," Spencer said. "I went full time to part time that quick. I had to leave, check myself out of there, because I couldn't work in that environment."

Faith leaders are scheduled to endorse the plan for paid sick leave Thursday at City Hall. 

The City Council plans to discuss the matter and make any changes to the proposal next week and take final action on the proposed ordinance May 27. The law would take effect in the summer of 2017.