** Press Release – 10/18/17 **
Contact: Merle Payne, firstname.lastname@example.org, 612-859-5750
Enforcement Crucial to Ensuring Twin Cities Workers Benefit from New $15 and Sick Time Ordinances, Say Forum Participants
Earlier this afternoon, Twin Cities workers’ center CTUL hosted a forum with low-wage workers, local elected officials, and national experts that highlighted the crucial need for proper funding and resources to enforce the landmark $15 and sick time ordinances recently adopted in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
In June, the Minneapolis City Council voted to raise the minimum hourly wage to $15—making the city the first in the Midwest to do so. Also this summer, Earned Sick and Safe Time ordinances became effective in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, guaranteeing most workers the right to earn paid time off to be used for illness, medical appointments, or threats to their safety, including domestic violence and sexual assault.
Local elected officials and community organizations have spotlighted these ordinances as important steps towards dealing with the stark racial and economic disparities in the Twin Cities. Today’s forum focused on the critical need for workplace enforcement to ensure that workers are able to fully access the wage and benefit increases.
“We are often afraid to speak up about our rights out of fear of retaliation. The laws exist, but if there is not follow through on enforcement, we don’t enjoy the benefits of those laws. If we all stand together, we can make justice real,” Emilio Miranda, CTUL member.
Panelists in the forum included several local low-wage workers who discussed their experiences with wage theft and other workplace violations, emphasizing the need for strong enforcement standards that empower workers to speak out about their experiences without fear of retaliation.
“These ordinances are critically important for working families, and if fully implemented, they will go a long way towards dealing with the severe racial and economic disparities in the Twin Cities metro area. When the Minneapolis and St. Paul City Councils vote on their annual budgets in December, they will have the opportunity to demonstrate that enforcing these new workplace standards is a priority,” said Veronica Mendez Moore, CTUL Co-Director.
A representative of Main Street Alliance, a coalition of local small businesses, spoke of the need for strong enforcement that levels the playing field for business owners who respect the new labor standards.
Closing out the panel were several national experts in the field who underscored the importance of partnerships with community organizations and sufficient funding in order for enforcement efforts to succeed. They included Dylan Orr, Director of the Seattle Office of Labor Standards; Professor Janice Fine of Rutgers University’s Center for Innovation in Worker Organization; and Tsedeye Gebreselassie of the National Employment Law Project.
“We know that enforcement agencies cannot do this alone. Labor Standards Offices in cities around the country are developing strategic relationships with community organizations that have the trust of the most vulnerable workers in the workforce. Workers are out there every day experiencing the reality of labor violations in their workplaces. They are the experts in knowing what is really happening in the workplace. Strong partnerships with community organizations allows the enforcement agencies to gain access to that expertise,” said Professor Janice Fine.
Dozens of community members participated in small group discussions about enforcement standards, including State Representatives Paul Thissen, Ryan Winkler, and Frank Hornstein; candidates for/current Minneapolis and St. Paul City Council Representatives Elizabeth Glidden, John Quincy, Alondra Cano, Dai Thao, Ginger Jentzen, and Jeremiah Ellison; and staff from the offices of United States Congressman Keith Ellison and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.