Earned Sick and Safe Time Ordinance Debate Continues

Business Leaders Share Opinions and Counselors Consider Amendments

DULUTH, Minn. – Discussion continues about the proposed Duluth earned sick and safe time ordinance that would mandate businesses to provide earned time off to employees.

After hearing people speak for about two hours, the Duluth City Council discussed possible amendments to the ordinance.

One amendment included rollover of safe and sick time from one calendar year to another, how employers of different sizes will be impacted by the ordinance, and how the ordinance could be implemented by the city over a period of time.

An amendment that would exempt seasonal employees from the safe and sick time ordinance was voted down by the council 6-3.

More amendments are expected to be added in the coming weeks.

Many businesses shared their opinions about the controversial ordinance. The Duluth Chamber of Commerce is against the measure and many businesses believe this would put an unfair financial burden on them that might lead to employees being laid off.

“It’s going to mean less dollars that we’ve got to take care of our people and that’s not a good thing,” said Benjamin Thoen, the corporate executive chef at Blackwater Group. “We want to take care of our people, we want to continue to grow and be here in Duluth for a long time to come and anything that gets in the way of that and our ability to support our team is a bad thing.”

Some business owners are for the measure, saying they have made similar policies work in their companies and believe the city council adopting the ordinance will send a positive message to the community.

“I didn’t study economics or entrepreneurship. I’m a fledgling business and I found a way to make it work and I don’t think being successful and making money is exclusive of treating people well,” said small business owner Elizabeth Spehar. “You can do both.”

More discussion is expected on the issue. No date has been set for when the council will vote for the ordinance.

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