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Thursday
Nov122015

Poll - Taking Photos on the Stone Arch Bridge

Minneapolis is considering enforcing the requirement for wedding, portrait and other types of professional photographers to obtain a $75 permit before taking photos on the Stone Arch Bridge. What do you think?

Join the conversation:

Note to future wedding parties - you're going to need more than a marriage license if you want your pictures professionally taken on the Stone Arch Bridge.

Posted by Mill City Times on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Saturday
Nov072015

Kudos to Diane Hofstede

The Pillsbury Best Flour sign is relit and one of the sentinels of our city is keeping our night sky vibrant.  The sign is a reminder of our history as a creative marketing city. Minneapolis knows how to build brands.  There are many people to thank.  However, lest we forget, former councilwoman Diane Hofstede was very instrumental in the negotiation in 2012 with the developer to ensure it was refurbished, reinstalled and relit on our riverfront.  Thank you Diane.

From reader Chelle Stoner

Sunday
Oct252015

Candidates to Serve Downtown

Elections to the Board of the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood are being held on Wednesday, October 28 at the Depot. There are 6 seats open, so you have 6 votes.

There are more candidates than in recent years, and this is a good thing given the transformation taking place in Downtown Minneapolis. It does make our endorsement more difficult. Top to bottom, all of these folks have an impressive combination of skills and experience. Here is the slate of candidates we think have what it takes to move Downtown forward (in alphabetical order):

- Dan Collison

- Laurie Jones

- Pamela McCrea

- Matt McNeill

- Sara Sternberger

- Joe Tamburino

However you vote, know that your vote counts.

 

 

Monday
Oct192015

Opinion | Working Families Agenda: Dumb Proposal, Good Decision

By Barrs Lewis:

Last Friday we were told that Mayor Betsy Hodges had backed away from what would have been a very dumb labor law regarding scheduling of hourly wage earners but that the mayor would continue to advocate for an earned sick leave benefit for hourly workers. Both are good choices… retreating on scheduling and sticking with earned sick leave.

  • Proposed Schedule Rules: Employers would be required to publish schedules 2 weeks in advance. Any subsequent changes would impose cost penalties. A penalty of one hour pay each time an employee’s schedule is adjusted plus a four hour penalty, if a shift is changed or canceled within 24 hours of a scheduled shift.
  • Proposed Earned Sick Leave: Employees earn 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The maximum earned hours in a year would be 40 hours for employers with fewer than 21 employees and 72 hours for employers with at least 21 employees. Earned hours are not transferable from one employer to the next.

What is disheartening is that Mayor Hodges pursued the scheduling law in the first place. It reflected both arrogance and naiveté of a high order about the businesses and working lives of the affected workforce. An absence of due process to obtain broad community feedback on such a disruptive new regulation on business and working families was misguided. The proposed scheduling rule is the type of public policy that makes Tea Party recruits out of Bernie supporters… dumb government rules that are ill-informed and overreach the ‘common good’.

Since the Mayor indicated that she has taken the scheduling rules ‘off-the-table for now’, it is worth expressing why these rules should remain off the table.

  • Hourly wage earners span a very broad range of activity, from construction, to dental hygienist and nurses, to repair service technicians, restaurant workers, retail workers, parking attendants, and many more.
  • Most of these professions share the common characteristic that work hours vary based on customer activity.
  • However, the predictability of customer activity can vary hugely across professions.
  • In the case of a dental hygienist, appointments are made well in advance. In contrast, customer activity can be quite erratic in the restaurant business, where weather and events play big roles.
  • In the case of food services, labor is the single largest controllable cost, accounting for 22-32% of revenue. The financial impact of idle labor is big and consequential.
  • While many food services are part of large multi-unit enterprises (e.g. McDonalds, Famous Dave’s, Panera Bread, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, etc.), many are independent owner-operators or local multi-unit enterprises (e.g. Parasole).
  • All sizes of business in the hospitality sector are highly competitive. Quality of service and price are both key competitive drivers. Customer activity varies greatly and often unpredictably. Hence, it is imperative to both add shifts and cut shifts to manage in this environment where changes from one meal-period or time-of-day to another occur often.
  • While the needed schedule flexibility is important to service level, costs, and food service prices, it is also a very important reason why many choose to work in the food service industry. Employees value the flexibility.
  • From the employee perspective, schedule flexibility means being able to work hours that fit their personal schedule.
  • Most of the U.S. workforce is accustomed to and prefers the standard 8-hour shift. However, many hours in the service sector, especially hospitality and food services, are in 3-5 hour chunks. While this is not for everyone, there are definitely those who prefer this.
  • Flexibility means the ability to ‘drop’ a shift due to last minute considerations and ‘pick-up’ extra shifts.
  • Perhaps, even more than most sectors of the economy, mobile technology is greatly improving the ability of both employers and managers to manage flexible schedules to mutual advantage. On-line and mobile applications allow employees to request a shift drop or swap and for other employees to pick up the shift. Similarly, employers can post a new shift offering for employees to pick up. All of this is a matter of mutual convenience and flexibility.

The expressed objective that the ‘working families’ agenda’ was to improve the life of hourly employees and diminish racially-based income inequality. Yet, the process was fast-tracked with input from a selected few and, in contrast, with little input from the communities in Minneapolis affected by such a wide ranging regulation. 

  • The claim that the proposed scheduling law was a response to groundswell of hourly workers is simply false.
  • In fact, following the announcement by the mayor’s office of a ‘fast-track’ process, there was a groundswell of food service industry hourly staff that organized to protest the rule. In a few days, Sarah Norton, a longtime restaurant server, organized an online petition with over 3,400 signers, 80% of these people are Minneapolis employees that draw an hourly wage. The petition was sponsored by a Facebook group called Service Industry Staff for Change which has almost 3,000 members.
  • A group of restaurant hourly staff and a few small business owners mustered with little advanced notice over 50 attendees who were mostly hourly staff and who were appalled by what the group considered a lack of due process on the part of the mayor’s office to ‘fast-track’ this fundamental change in the way they managed their working lives.
  • One claim of the ‘working families’ agenda’ was that it would mitigate income inequality across racial lines. The racial distribution of service industry employees tracks pretty closely to that of the overall population. It is unclear how the proposed changes in scheduling rules would alter racial inequalities.

Earned Paid Sick Leave Is a Good Choice

Earned paid sick leave is a different matter. The need for paid sick leave is similar but, perhaps, even more broadly based than an increase in overtime pay. Paid sick leave directly and beneficially affects all hourly employees. It provides to part-time hourly workforce an earned benefit that is enjoyed by most salaried and union employees.

From an employer perspective, earned paid sick leave increases the cost of business, increasing the effective hourly wage by as much as 3.3 percent for employees working approximately half time, 24 hours per week. (One hour earned divided by thirty hours worked equals 3.3% with 40 hour maximum.) For businesses with 20 or fewer employees, as hours worked increases beyond approximately 20 hours weekly, the percent increase in effective hourly wage diminishes. For larger employers, the effective wage increase is 3.3%.

While there is a cost to the employer, there are also off-setting benefits to the employer. Relieving the pressure on employees to work when sick or neglect family responsibilities benefits both employers and employees.  Service industry employees, by definition, in most cases have broad exposure to the public they serve. This is especially true for food service employees. The wisdom of extending earned paid sick leave to hourly staff is intuitive and compelling for both public health and social equity reasons.

As an aside, the fact that paid sick leave will make employees more likely to ‘drop’ a shift on short notice is one more contributor to the need for schedule flexibility. In theory, every employee who calls in sick will require another employee to be called in to replace the sick employee.

Barrs Lewis is a Downtown resident and former owner of a company that developed and supported workforce management software used by over 6,000 large and small hospitality establishments.

SHARE WITH YOUR FRIENDS, SHARE YOUR COMMENTS

What do you think???

Posted by Mill City Times on Monday, October 19, 2015

Monday
Oct052015

East Downtown Council Has Concerns re: Working Families Proposal

Dear Members of the East Downtown Council,

We are writing to you today (a PDF of this letter is attached to this email) - at the request of the full board - to bring to your attention two city regulation changes that the Minneapolis City Council are beginning to consider. While neither proposed regulation has been put into final text and content, there are talking points the city staff have created to discuss these issues and council members have been speaking publically about these ideas, so the intended reach of these regulations has been clearly articulated. A city website containing more information is at www.minneapolismn.gov/workingfamiliesagenda where you can access the information released by city staff and the working group formed in April 2015.

On Tuesday we attended a meeting concerning this issue. Present were people representing the Minneapolis Downtown Council, Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, many trade/business associations and many businesses, large and small.  There were 40+ people in the room representing a vast swath of businesses throughout the city.  This coalition is called the Workforce Fairness Coalition. It is being formed in opposition to these regulatory revisions. Information put out by the coalition can be found at www.workforcefairnesscoalition.com.

The proposed regulations will affect every Minneapolis business with one or more employees. Whether you ultimately agree or disagree with these proposed regulations, the sweeping extents of the regulations, the lack of clarity of the actual language and the speed at which they are moving through City Hall have created urgency for the business community to make their voice heard.  While many on the EDC board stated that the intentions of the proposed regulations may be noble by addressing the small portion of businesses that do not treat their employees fairly, the proposed implementation appears to be a clumsy overreach and could be very damaging to the vitality of our city in the long term by putting us at an economic disadvantage to our neighbors.

At this time we simply do not have enough information about the merits and consequences of these proposed regulations to make informed decisions. The sense of the board at Thursday’s board meeting was mostly in opposition to the proposed regulations with several folks needing more time to digest the information. It appears that the uncertainty and questions about the need for such sweeping changes to city regulations – not to mention the fact that the enforcement mechanism is completely unaddressed in any of the city’s pronouncements – is very troubling to everyone. In summary, the board feels this is too much proposed change without adequate time to study and shape these regulations so that they can truly address the intended problems without penalizing others.

At this time the EDC Board has not taken a formal position in support of or opposition to these proposed regulations.  At Thursday’s board meeting there was a general sense of urgency to connect with our membership to ask you to do two things:

  1. Please read the information put out by the city and by the Workforce Fairness Coalition. We urge you to then contact your council member to voice your opinion. Please do so by October 16th – which is the date the city has asked to have comments received by.
    You can find your council member’s email addresses and phone numbers at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/council/members/index.htm.
    Please also consider contacting Mayor Hodges about this issue. You can find her contact information at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/mayor/contact/index.htm.  
  2. Please respond to both of us and let us know your opinions. In recent years the EDC has not taken formal positions on contentious public issues, whether they are perceived to benefit or not benefit our membership. The board will likely be asked to formally declare our stance on this issue and we want your input. This reflects the growing influence the East Downtown Council plays in the community – but that also requires us to be better prepared for such occurrences in the future. The EDC Board will formulate a process for considering future such requests. But for now, we want to hear directly from you to best understand where our membership’s sentiments lie on these issues. Please email your thoughts to dcollison@downtownminneapolis.org and paul@msrdesign.com  as soon as possible. We will collect your comments, using them to seed a conversation among the board and possibly take action based on your input. 

Thank you for your attention to these important matters.

Sincerely,

Paul Mellblom, EDC Board President

Dan Collison, EDC Executive Director

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Download the EDC letter...

Download the Working Families proposal...