Minneapolis mayor and council members to create new labor commission to address worker discontent

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a majority of city council members and a host of labor groups proposed Wednesday that the city establish a new “Labour Standards Board.”

The effort would include workers, business leaders and public officials aimed at addressing worker discontent and issues such as pay, safety and equity.

“When we talk about the future, we’re talking about more flexibility for work and safer operations for work,” Frey said in announcing the proposal at a press conference Wednesday morning at the hotel. city ​​of Minneapolis. “Now a big part of that is making sure we have a Labor Standards Board that values ​​worker input and is put in place from the start.”

Council members Jason Chavez, Aisha Chughtai, Jeremiah Ellison, Emily Koski, Jamal Osman, Linea Palmisano, Elliott Payne, Michael Rainville, LaTrisha Vetaw and Robin Wonsley were present in support of the proposal.

The Main Street Alliance of Minnesota, an organization of small business owners, provided a supporting statement: “Small business owners applaud the creation of a Minneapolis Labor Standards Council that would continue to elevate and invest in our workers, especially as we recover from a systemic crisis. challenge and the ongoing pandemic. »

But the big companies haven’t weighed in yet. Target, a member of the Minneapolis Workforce Advisory Board — established in 2016 to instruct the city on labor policy — declined to comment. The Downtown Minneapolis Council and the Minneapolis Regional Chamber did not immediately respond with comment on the proposal.

Union leaders who joined in the announcement hailed the plan.

“An exciting new proposal that we believe will bring workers, businesses and the public together to find solutions that will help ensure that Minneapolis doesn’t simply revert to the status quo,” said Brahim Kone, local union secretary. 26 of the Service Employees International Union.

Ignacia Ambriz, who works at a local retailer, has a theory on why labor shortages are rampant in almost every industry: “I know firsthand how hard we’ve worked to maintain the running economy during pandemic. I would work 14 to 15 hours a day. .. I got sick with COVID twice. This crisis could have been avoided if workers received a living wage, had access to sick leave and other workplace protections.

What is a “labour standards committee?”

Labor standards boards are usually made up of employers, workers, and government officials. Their purpose is to solve problems that arise in specific industries and to establish standard working conditions.

A number of US cities and states have created labor boards in recent years. In 2021, they were created for Nevada home care workers, Colorado farm workers, and Michigan nursing home workers.

In 2015, the New York Wage Board scored a victory recommending that the state minimum wage for fast food workers be raised from $8.75 an hour to $15.

Minneapolis already has an ordinance raising the city’s minimum wage to $15. It has been phased in since 2017 and will be fully implemented by large and small employers by 2024.

What’s on offer in Minneapolis?

Many details are still being worked out. It’s unclear how many members a Minneapolis Labor Standards Board would have, how they would be appointed, how the board would be staffed, and what its administrative costs would be.

But according to SEIU Local 26, one way to populate the Labor Standards Board is to add an equal number of workers and employers from the city’s existing workplace advisory committee.

Once formed, the Labor Standards Commission could then create as many “industry standards commissions” as it deems necessary to deal with issues raised by workers in a number of specific industries. These industry standards councils would be temporary and disband once they investigate an issue — whether low pay or security breaches — and recommend fixes.

How these recommendations would be legally binding and enforceable has yet to be determined by the city attorney’s office.

And after?

One or more of the supportive city council members would introduce an ordinance to create a labor standards commission that would eventually have to be approved.

Frey is expected to include funding for it in his 2023 budget proposal, due in mid-August.

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