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Minneapolis to consider local wage theft ordinance

Mayor Jacob Frey and City Council members joined labor and community representatives for a news conference following the introduction of a wage theft ordinance in the Minneapolis City Council.

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, June 28, 2019

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

MINNEAPOLIS — As a crowd of union members and worker advocates filled the City Council chambers, three Minneapolis City Council members introduced a local wage theft ordinance designed to work in tandem with recently-passed state legislation.

The June 21 introduction of the local ordinance begins a process that will include public hearings and other opportunities for the community to weigh-in on the proposal.

Linea Palmisano, Ward 13 Council Member and one of the authors, passed out drafts of the ordinance and addressed the crowd: union construction workers in hardhats and safety vests, members of CTUL in red t-shirts, workers engaged with the Restaurant Opportunities Center in blue t-shirts. “I want to thank you all for giving this piece of legislation the weight of your presence,” she said.

At a news conference following the City Council meeting, workers who have experienced wage theft spoke out. “It is frustrating and also desperate to know you’re not going to receive your paycheck for work you already completed,” said Juana Cinto, CTUL member, a daycare worker whose boss “started giving me checks without funds.”

Mya Bradford, now active with the Restaurant Opportunities Center, shared how she and co-workers investigated their employer and found “we were only given 50 percent of our tips. For me, this meant I couldn’t even get the cheapest apartment.”

“I’m calling out to other workers in the City of Minneapolis to speak out on this problem,” said CTUL member Emilio Miranda Rios.

“We’re here today to stand in solidarity,” said Dan McConnell, business manager of the Minneapolis Building and Construction Trades Council. Non-union, immigrant construction workers are particularly vulnerable to wage theft and misclassification as independent contractors. “There’s been a crisis in the construction industry,” McConnell said. “We’re not going to stand for this, not on our watch.”

McConnell shared how his own immigrant great grandfather was one of the many immigrants who built the city.

Mayor Jacob Frey said a local wage theft ordinance is needed so that the city has the tools to enforce the $15 minimum wage provision which it passed two years ago. “The quickest way to erode trust in government is to not enforce the laws that you’ve passed,” he commented.

“Wage theft is also known as stealing,” Frey declared. “When you do the hard work, you should get the amount you were promised.”

Council Member Palmisano noted that “wage theft can be an issue that’s hard to track,” because workers fear retaliation. She said a U.S. Department of Labor study found 5,500 wage violations in Minneapolis over a two-year period totaling $2.7 million in unpaid wages.

Wage theft ordinance author Phillipe Cunningham, Ward 4 Council Member, recalled how his mother “had her wages stolen” when he was growing up.

With the ordinance, he said, “we can change how business is truly done.”

Looking forward, Ward 3 City Council Member Steve Fletcher, also an author of the wage theft ordinance, said he would like to see the city also address problems that independent contractors face getting paid for their services. “Our goal is that no matter how people earn their income in the City of Minneapolis, we want to make sure they get paid.”

Click here for a link to the text of the proposed ordinance

Check back later for information about public hearings

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