A standing-room-only crowd supporting the Working Families Agenda filled the Minneapolis City Council chambers Wednesday for action by the Council's Committee of the Whole.
The committee passed a procedural vote setting Nov. 4 as the date for a public hearing on the proposed Working Families Agenda, which would mandate that all employers provide paid sick days to workers and also mandate fair scheduling practices.
(Comments on the Working Families proposals may be submitted online, with a deadline of Oct. 16. Click on this link to submit a comment.
After the City Council Committee of the Whole meeting, members of the #MPLSWorks coalition gathered for an outdoor news conference on the city hall steps.
Lennox Thornswood, Minneapolis, a member of AFL-CIO community affiliate Working America, introduced workers who told how their lives are impacted by lack of paid sick days, short notice and variable work schedules, and low wages.
CTUL member Guillermo Lindsay spoke about the need for paid sick days. He said he had worked 14 years at McDonald's, adding, "I know what it means to work sick… throwing up everywhere."
Working America member Chris Pennock, Minneapolis, spoke about the need for fair scheduling and paid sick days. He said he works for a carpet cleaning company, sometimes 10-12 hour days. But, he noted, "every week is a random assortment of days we're going to work."
With no paid sick days, he said, workers face the decision about doing hard, physical work while sick or staying home to take care of themselves and missing out on $100 in pay.
"I'm there for the company but the company isn't there for us," he said.
"We need paid sick days. We need fair scheduling. We need the Working Families Agenda to pass,” Pennock said.
CTUL member Christina Cortez shared her experience working at the McDonald's restaurant located inside Abbott Northwestern Hospital — where she has no paid sick days. "I had to go to work two weeks ago and work sick three days in a row," she said. "It's unfair that I had to go to work sick and share my sickness with everyone around me, especially working in a hospital."
CTUL member Jesus Sanchez works for Capital Building Services cleaning a Macy's store. "I make poverty wages and I have no benefits," he said. "We want a wage where we can live in dignity. Our employer makes a lot of money but the workers live in poverty."
"We're fighting for fair scheduling, paid sick days, $15 per hour and union rights," Sanchez said.
Sanchez announced that workers at Building Services Group will go on strike Nov. 10 if the company refuses to negotiate. CTUL members from two other retail cleaning contractors also said they and their co-workers also will be ready to strike Nov. 10.
Following the news conference, #MPLSWorks members marched back into City Hall to deliver a stack of petitions supporting the Working Families Agenda to the City Council.
The crowd of #MPLSWorks supporters filled the City Council lobby and hallway outside while waiting for a city council member to accept the petitions.
One chant: "Bosses please stop meddling — We just want fair scheduling."
After a few minutes, Council Members Cam Gordon, Ward 2, and Lisa Bender, Ward 10, appeared.
As television cameras filmed, young Kevarion, age 3, presented the petitions to Gordon and Bender. Kevarion’s mom, CTUL member Keandra Guilmant, works at the McDonald's restaurant located inside Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
Bender gave Kevarion a high five. “We’re working on this for you and your mom and your future,” she said.
“We’re working hard to make sure you’re not sitting home on Sunday night wondering if you’re going to get four hours or 40 hours,” Bender told the crowd.
City council member Cam Gordon encouraged the crowd to stay involved as the Working Families Agenda moves through the city council process. "It's your leadership that's gotten us here,” he said.
Gordon added, "in Minneapolis, it's no secret we have some of the worst racial economic disparities in our country."
The proposals in the Working Families Agenda, he said, aren't little issues getting the city too involved in employers' businesses. Instead, he said, the Working Families proposals "are all about economic justice."
“This shouldn’t be an economic or political question,” said Karl Meller, retired AFSCME Council 5 member. “It’s a simple question of moral justice.”
Labor and community organizations supporting the #MPLSWorks campaign include the Minnesota AFL-CIO, 15Now.org, AFSCME Council 5, CTUL, CWA Minnesota State Council, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, Minnesota Nurses Association, Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, SEIU Minnesota State Council, TakeAction Minnesota, Teamsters Local 320, and Working America.