Council vote gives St. Paul nation’s strongest earned sick time ordinance

St. Paul business owner Diane Brennan speaks in support of a citywide earned sick time policy at a press conference before a public hearing on the issue.

St. Paul business owner Diane Brennan speaks in support of a citywide earned sick time policy at a press conference before a public hearing on the issue.

Members of the St. Paul City Council today voted 7-0 to pass an ordinance hailed by working people, small business owners, clergy members and other advocates as the strongest earned sick and safe time law on the books nationwide.

Mayor Chris Coleman immediately indicated he would support the ordinance, making St. Paul the 35th U.S. location to pass sick-pay legislation, according to Family Values at Work.

“We are experiencing tremendous momentum as a city,” Coleman said in a statement. “We need to do everything we can to ensure even the most vulnerable among us are experiencing that same momentum. This ordinance brings us one step closer to doing so, and I support it for that reason.”

Set to take effect July 1, 2017, the ordinance will extend ESST benefits to an estimated 72,000 working people in St. Paul.

It requires all employers – regardless of size, unlike the ordinance passed in Minneapolis earlier this year – to provide one hour of sick time for every 30 hours an employee works, with sick-time earnings capped at 48 hours per year. Employees will begin accruing sick time after working 80 hours, and they become eligible to use the benefit after 90 calendar days of employment.

Supporters like Nuurto Mohamed, a janitor for 3M in St. Paul, said the new ordinance will give healthier choices to working families like hers.

“I am so excited that we won paid sick days for families like mine in St. Paul,” Mohamed said. “We work hard, and having more paid sick days will mean we no longer have to choose between our health and our paycheck when someone in our family is sick.”

The ordinance also gives employees the right to sue if they face retaliation for using their paid sick time. Michelle Parker, a member of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change who works at Papa John’s in St. Paul, welcomed the enforcement provision.

Pastor Bradley Schmeling explains his support for a citywide earned-sick-time ordinance during a press conference at St. Paul City Hall.

Pastor Bradley Schmeling explains his support for a citywide earned-sick-time ordinance during a press conference at St. Paul City Hall.

“When I have to call in sick, my employer cuts my hours for the next week,” she said. “My family needs this safeguard.”

The ordinance closely follows the recommendations of a task force established earlier this year by Mayor Coleman and council members to study the issue. It included labor, faith and community leaders, as well as representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and small business owners.

“The benefits to providing sick time outweigh the costs a hundred fold,” said Workhorse Coffee’s Shannon Forney, one of more than 50 business owners citywide to back the ordinance publicly. “If we, a scrappy small business not supported by capital investments, can do it, certainly other businesses can too.”

Supporters celebrated the council vote as the culmination of a yearlong campaign that included congregational meetings, forums, door-knocks, phone banks, strikes, rallies and meetings with elected officials.

“This vote is a big step toward improving the quality of life for all working people in Saint Paul,” said Bobby Kasper, president of the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation and a member of the ESST task force. “We’re grateful to the elected officials who showed courage on Earned Sick and Safe Time, and proud to be part of a coalition of community groups that, by working together, made history today.”

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  1. […] City Council last month passed an ordinance to guarantee all workers access to earned sick and safe time – the strongest and most progressive of any municipality in the country. It was a victory for […]

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