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Supporters, critics of mandatory paid sick leave make cases to Mpls. council

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The Minneapolis City Council is scheduled to vote next week on a proposed ordinance that would make most businesses in the city provide paid sick time to their workers. At a hearing Wednesday the public had a chance to provide their two cents.

The proposal

The ordinance could still be changed before next Friday's vote. But as it's now written, it would apply to businesses with more than five employees. They would have to provide workers with 48 hours a year of paid time off to care for themselves or for sick family members.

It would apply to full-time, part-time, and temporary workers.

It would not apply to independent contractors, construction workers who earn a prevailing wage, or "casual" health care workers who may have several employers.

A presentation covering the basics of the ordinance came before Wednesday's hearing. You can read the full ordinance here.

The reaction

The Star Tribune says of the 73 people who testified at City Hall Wednesday 50 supported the ordinance. 13 opposed it, and the rest had questions or suggestions.

WCCO reports the owner of a bakery testified that he voluntarily decided to give his workers paid sick time. While it raised his costs by one percent, he said it has reduced employee turnover and the costs of retraining.

On the other hand, the station says, the owner of a building company noted the ordinance would raise the cost of business for him but not for his competitor who relies on contract workers.

In general, supporters of the ordinance have argued it's a way to help low-wage workers and reduce racial disparities. Opponents expect the added cost and record-keeping will cause businesses to leave Minneapolis, taking jobs and tax base with them.

The research

A report from the Minneapolis Health Department last summer estimated 41 percent of the city's residents lack access to paid sick leave (that's nearly 62,000 people).

They found those with low incomes – especially part-time workers and those in service occupations – were the least likely to have paid sick time. Among racial groups Hispanics were least likely to have it.

The city council and mayor put together a group that studied sick time ordinances in place in other cities and held listening sessions around Minneapolis. They made their recommendations to the council in March and those became the basis for the ordinance (read their report here).

Seattle is one of the cities where paid sick leave is mandatory, KSTP reports.

Two years after their ordinance was enacted, the University of Washington studied its effects. They found the cost of the change was less than anticipated and 70 percent of business owners said they supported the ordinance.

The Star Tribune says a majority of Minneapolis city council members have said that they support a paid sick leave ordinance.

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