City Councilors' View: Uniquely Duluth policy needed to ensure earned sick, safe time


Minnesotans are a people proud of our strong work ethic — and rightly so. Work is a time-honored Midwestern value. Work is the traditional route out of poverty and the means to provide for one's family.

As a staple mechanism of our society, work and the workplace have a need for fair and equitable standards, regardless of an employee's wage. A day without pay to care for an ill child, to tend to a sick parent, or to address individual health concerns should not mean falling behind on paying the heating bill, rent, or for the very medicine that helps those who are ill get better.

We know that employers, especially local employers, want to do right by their employees and are genuinely concerned with the welfare of their employees and their families. Most accommodate life's surprises with ease and flexibility.

But we also feel there is a need for a fair and equitable guideline to do so.

Addressing this issue over the past year was the Earned Sick and Safe Time Task Force, and we thank its members for their work. It has been valuable as we begin to formulate a uniquely Duluth policy.

Lately, the conversation around such a policy has had many strong community voices speaking up. We encourage all those who want to be part of the process to participate in a constructive and civil manner.

We believe our city government can have these difficult conversations. We acknowledge that a sick-and-safe-time policy would be better grounded at the federal or state level; however, we believe that Duluth, as a strong regional player, can help advance these policies.

We also find it vitally important that we find a policy that works for Duluth and not a copy-and-paste policy from St. Paul, Minneapolis, or another place. Duluth is significantly different in a variety of ways.

To move forward, we must find a policy that provides employees the ability to take care of themselves and their families but also a policy that provides for competition amongst businesses with their varying benefits packages. This policy must be simple and hold both the employer and employee accountable. No small business should have to hire an attorney or hire a human-resources department to comply with a Duluth-sized policy.

There are certainly concerns with how to enforce this policy. However, we believe that with the right policy, we can overcome and address this issue.

This won't be an easy conversation. But working with the community to find common ground, we believe we can continue to grow our economy and provide basic benefits to workers.

Elissa Hansen and Noah Hobbs are At Large members of the Duluth City Council.