In short order, the Duluth City Council will have the opportunity to improve the lives of nearly half of all Duluth workers. Following the lead of an appointed task force, councilors can do this by crafting and adopting a strong earned-sick-and-safe-time policy.
Over the last year, we have witnessed democracy in action in Duluth, and we couldn't be prouder. A task force comprised of a broad cross section of society met periodically over the last year to hear from community members, business owners, and everyone in between as the City Council considered creating a paid sick-and-safe-time policy that would help improve the lives of nearly 20,000 Duluth workers. This work was vital to creating a successful set of recommendations that enjoys community support.
As the task force worked diligently, the three of us, at the state level, fought off efforts to pass a preemption bill that would have stymied Duluth's efforts to create better working conditions and quality of life for people who call our city home.
Now our collective efforts have brought us to the next step: the Duluth City Council crafting an earned-sick-and-safe-time policy from the recommendations of the task force.
As your locally elected representatives who go to bat for you at the state level, we all have supported and co-authored legislation to create a statewide paid family and medical leave policy. Despite our best efforts, these policies failed to pass.
In lieu of a state policy, we believe instituting something at the local level is the best path forward. Parents with sick children must take their kids to the doctor now. They can't wait. The same goes for women fleeing violence or caring for their own illnesses. We have real-world examples that show earned-sick-and-safe policies succeed because workers gain flexibility and improved morale; and businesses see decreased turnover rates and happier, more-productive workers. It's the smartest thing to do for the health and well-being of our community.
To that end, we believe a robust policy should include the following:
- A full ordinance, one that requires mandates for earned-sick-and-safe-time coverage.
- Coverage for all paid employees with all employers required to provide an earned-sick-and-safe-time benefit.
- The earning of sick and safe time starting on the date of hire with workers able to use the time off as it is accrued.
- An accrual rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked with no cap on accrual and with carryover for unused time.
- The ability to use the earned time for bereavement or to bond with a child.
It is our hope as citizens and neighbors in this community that Duluth join the ranks of the close to 30 other cities across the country which believe that a strong earned-sick-and-safe-time policy is the right thing to do for their workers.
Northern Minnesota workers first realized the power of their numbers in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Fighting for the rights of workers is in our bones. Let's continue our strong history of fighting for a better quality of life for workers by passing a robust paid sick-and-safe-time policy for 21st-century Duluthians.
Sen. Erik Simonson represents Duluth's District 7 in the Minnesota Senate. Rep. Liz Olson represents District 7B in the Minnesota House. And Rep. Jen Schultz represents District 7A in the Minnesota House.
Conversation continues Sunday
Check out Sunday Opinion this weekend for more on Duluth's debate over whether to enact an earned-sick-and-safe-time ordinance. In advance of the City Council's scheduled consideration of task force recommendations on Tuesday, the News Tribune Opinion page will feature columns for and against the ordinance from Earned Sick and Safe Time Task Force members and from Duluth City Council candidates. The News Tribune also will publish its editorial on the issue. After considering all sides, readers can then let councilors know their thoughts ahead of a council vote.