Workers rally in Minneapolis for better pay, scheduling practices

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Workers and advocates rallied outside the Macy's in downtown Minneapolis on Black Friday to push for changes to pay and scheduling laws.

Dozens of people gathered at the corner and marched through the skyways, chanting and speaking about the experience retail workers have on holidays.

"While retailers pull in record profits, Minneapolis workers battle through the holidays with unpredictable schedules, poverty wages, no paid sick time, and even wage theft," the Facebook event page says. Groups including Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, TakeAction Minnesota, #MplsWorks, and CTUL were involved.

Kevin H., a retail employee who worked an overnight shift before coming to the rally, told BringMeTheNews he "would have liked to see more" people attend (he estimated about 100 came), but overall said he was pretty happy with the energy.

Kevin spoke at the event, and later told BringMeTheNews the push is not to ban working on holidays – rather, it's to give workers choices and protections, so they are getting fairly compensated and know ahead of time what's coming up.

Says the event page: "The day after Thanksgiving has become a retail 'holy day' where big stores will do anything to increase their sales, often on the backs of their lowest paid workers. Large retailers ... are once again forcing their employees to come to work on Thanksgiving evening and miss spending time with their families."

Minneapolis-based Target, which opened at 6 p.m. on Thursday, has noted hourly employees working holidays receive time-and-a-half pay, and associates who worked certain shifts on Thanksgiving and Black Friday will get “additional compensation” on top of that. Best Buy, based in Richfield, last year said hourly workers got holiday pay for being scheduled on Thanksgiving.

Both retailers opened Thanksgiving evening this year.

Partnership to look at new rules

Last week, Minneapolis' City Council adopted a proposal to set up a Workplace Regulations Partnership – it'll bring together different parties (low-wage employees, reps of organized labor, reps of employers, and reps of biz groups/associations) to talk about the "Working Families" policies that were discussed this fall, but not passed.

Part of the proposal included requiring businesses to give workers at least 14 days notice of their work schedule, plus compensatory pay if a shift was changed last-minute – but that was shelved in October after push-back from businesses (particularly in the restaurant industry) that said it would be impossible to actually implement.

Another big pillar of the agenda would have required businesses to give workers paid time off – but shortly after the fair scheduling proposal was punted, the City Council decided to wait until next year to act on paid sick leave as well, MinnPost reported.

Council members who supported the agenda were also behind the slower approach, saying implementing the changes by the end of the year would not have allowed enough time to consider the consequences, according to MinnPost.

The group Main Street Alliance has put together a map of Minneapolis restaurants and businesses that say they support the "Working Families Agenda" – click here to see it.

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