Local View: Sky won't fall when council passes sick-safe ordinance
Despite the recent statewide increase in the minimum wage and the Duluth smoking ban in bars and restaurants years ago, Duluth is humming along and tourists continue to flock here. Despite employers' predictions at the time, the sky didn't fall b...
Despite the recent statewide increase in the minimum wage and the Duluth smoking ban in bars and restaurants years ago, Duluth is humming along and tourists continue to flock here. Despite employers' predictions at the time, the sky didn't fall back then when these worker-friendly laws passed, and businesses didn't move out of Duluth. The News Tribune reported in February that $11.62 million was collected from the tourism tax on hotel and restaurant revenue in 2017, an increase from the previous year. There has been an increase in tourism-tax revenue every year since 2006, with the exception of 2013.
Likewise, the sky will not fall if Duluth passes a strong earned-sick-and-safe-time ordinance.
It is important to note that the ordinance and amendments as currently proposed contain business-friendly provisions that delay implementation until 2020 and that cap usage at 40 hours per year for full-time workers.
What people who are not in poverty don't notice is the high cost of poverty and financial instability experienced by a large number of children and families and individuals. This comes at a high cost to our city and our economy because thousands of Duluthians are struggling to get by in our city and cannot afford to purchase the basic necessities of life - never mind eating out and other luxuries.
The current minimum wage in Minnesota is $9.50 an hour. A household with one parent working full-time year-round at that minimum wage earns less than $20,000 annually. Many households experiencing poverty work but do not have full-time, year-round employment, and many of these households are in the 17 percent of Duluthians (14,000 people) who are below the poverty line. The poverty line for a household of two is a meager $16,460 per year. These low-wage-earner households are often less than one paycheck away from homelessness and not having enough to eat. Imagine the daily and hourly stress this causes.
This ordinance would ensure a marginal amount of security and stability to thousands of workers - workers barely hanging on to their housing and who literally experience food insecurity on a regular basis - when they or a family member are docked a day's pay for being sick or for experiencing violence.
The ordinance would mean that workers wouldn't have to choose between a day's wage and coming to work sick or making their kids go to school sick.
A strong earned-sick-and-safe-time ordinance also would benefit thousands of low-wage workers who do not work in restaurants and whose employers are not among the handful leading the opposition.
Let's get it done.
Angie Miller was co-chairwoman of the Duluth City Council-appointed Earned Sick and Safe Time Task Force. She wrote and submitted this on her own, however, and not from the task force.