Minneapolis City Council Introduce New Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance

Workers, council members and Mayor praise step towards addressing wage theft in Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS — Friday morning the Minneapolis City Council introduced a new wage theft prevention ordinance. The law will ensure workers in the city are protected from the growing wage theft crisis, especially with the $15 minimum wage and earned sick and safe time passed over the last two years in Minneapolis.

CTUL_End_Wage_Theft_Now_rsAfter the Council introduction, workers and supporters shared why it is so important to take this action at a press conference at City Hall.

Mya Bradford, a ROC-MN member and former Bonchon Minneapolis Server, shared her story of facing wage theft in Minneapolis. 

“I experienced wage theft here in Minneapolis as a server at Bonchon in Uptown. It affected my life, my housing, and my being able to support my son. We had to fight publicly to be paid back stolen wages and are still owed money. Wage theft is just another example of the upper hand stealing from workers. This new ordinance will help protect moms like me.”
 
Juana Cinto, a member of CTUL who was a daycare worker in Minneapolis, shared her story of experiencing wage theft in Minneapolis and the challenges it caused her family. 
 
“I went through wage theft in Minneapolis when working at a daycare. My boss had problems in giving me payments constantly, including giving me checks without funds. The last days I worked he did not pay me. I would call him and he never answered. With time passing, other coworkers went with me to CTUL and demanded our wages. To this day we have never recovered our money. It has affected us a lot. I wasn’t able to help my mom, who was really sick at the time. It made me angry to not be paid for my work. I think it is time we raise our voices, which is why we are here demanding leaders in Minneapolis take action and pass this anti-wage theft law. Let’s make sure this type of abuse doesn’t happen to any more families.”
 
Council Member Linea Palmisano, one of the co-authors of the ordinance, spoke about the scope of this problem facing workers in Minneapolis.
 
“Wage theft is an issue that’s inherently hard to track because it is all complaint-based, and we know that workers are very often fearful of retaliation if they do so, but we know that this is a serious problem in Minneapolis. Between 2005-2014, the United States Department of Labor found over 5,500 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act by employers in Minneapolis, totaling over $2.7 million in unpaid wages. And that is probably just a drop in the bucket.”
 
Council Member Steve Fletcher, another of the co-authors of the ordinance, shared how the new law will relate to the recently passed statewide anti-wage theft law.
“We are thrilled that the legislature passed a pretty comprehensive package of policy changes in the final budget deal, and additional funding for enforcement in the Department of Labor and Industry. Now we want to join that team effort as a City. This ordinance will complement state law by adding wage theft prevention to our existing labor standards, allowing our Civil Rights staff to enforce violations of that law and a small set of additional protections that we are including in our ordinance.With the work of the Workplace Advisory Committee, and everyone we’ve heard from today, this effort has already had broad engagement from workers, unions, small and large businesses, and more, and that engagement will now continue as this ordinance progresses.”
 
Council Member Phillipe Cunningham, also a co-author of the ordinance, shared how the process to get this ordinance passed came to be and why it is so important.
 
“Over the last 18 months, the Workplace Advisory Committee has worked to develop a comprehensive wage theft prevention agenda to complement our minimum wage and earned sick and safe time policies. With this ordinance, Minneapolis Civil Rights staff will be able to field reports of violations that may include multiple components: a lack of paid sick time, a minimum wage violation, and/or wage theft. So it just makes sense for us to pass this ordinance and add that capability.”
 
Mayor Jacob Frey joined the press conference and shared the importance of this ordinance in addressing racial inequalities in the city of Minneapolis. 
 
“Prior to our passage of our minimum wage ordinance, 41 percent of all black workers and 54 percent of all Latino workers in Minneapolis earned less than $15 per hour. That’s compared with just 17 percent of white workers. It’s great that workers are getting a raise. But everyone needs to know — and understand — that these workers are entitled to that raise and to sick leave. And they should know that the City has their back when they assert those rights. It’s never enough to pass a law, pat yourself on the back, and declare victory. Indeed, the quickest way to erode trust in government is to pass laws that you don’t enforce.”

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