Sick Days Momentum Shows How Workers Can Challenge Corporate Influence

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Rally for Workers' Rights on July 15, 2015

Why do we need to build a movement for a $15/hour minimum wage in Minneapolis? Because, as the battles around an earned sick and safe time policy (ESST) and paid maternity leave show, Big Business will fight unapologetically for its interests every step of the way. It's a warning to the fight for $15/hour. We need to build a grassroots movement to defeat powerful business interests and the corporate media, who are determined to do everything they can to block any gains for working people.

Big Business and conservative politicians consistently spread fear about how raising the minimum wage would affect the local economy, shut down businesses, reduce labor hours, and eliminate jobs for supposed “low-skilled” workers or young people. A recent report from the National Employment Law Project debunks these myths, demonstrating how, for over 75 years: “opponents’ perennial predictions of job losses when minimum-wage increases are proposed are rooted in ideology, not evidence.”

Now, the Star Tribune Editorial Board has weighed in against workers in Minneapolis, parroting the worst doomsday arguments Big Business uses to defeat pro-worker policies. In an op-ed about paid maternity leave, they said cities like Minneapolis should not have the power to address workers rights whatsoever, in spite of clear differences in cost of living and equity gaps. Instead they encouraged state lawmakers to override Minneapolis’ ability to govern itself, and strike a “grand bargain” coupling municipal pre-emption with paid family leave, an attempt to stop Minneapolis in its tracks from moving forward on $15/hr and ESST.

Even while data shows the overwhelmingly positive economic impacts from workers’ access to sick time, countless hours of testimony from employers and workers supporting policy change do not deter Big Business from mobilizing at every opportunity to dilute, derail, and delay initiatives for working people. A mass mobilization of working people is the only way we win a raise impacting over 100,000 Minneapolis workers.

Historically, business argued against the eight-hour day, against a 40-hour work week, for child labor. Every time collective action by workers and social justice movements advance, Big Business cries for the end of the world as we know it. But, as an Economic Policy Institute report showed in 2015, “[d]ismal wage growth is the result of intentional policy choices made on behalf of those with the most income, wealth, and political power.”

Remember that Steve Kramer, the Chamber of Commerce’s representative on the Workplace Partnership Group, was the lone “no” vote to a policy that many lauded as a compromise proposal between business and workers. And yet, the Chamber continues to use the National Restaurant Association, National Franchisee Association and other mega-trade groups organized by Big Business to continue the fight for their interests against a sick time policy in Minneapolis. They will do the same with our proposal for $15 over the coming months.  

We disagree with the “race to the bottom” strategy advocated by business representatives and the corporate media. Advocating that big business “voluntarily” enact policies which benefit workers is trickle down economics, the results of which have been a disaster for working people. Pro-business policies have left Minneapolis with the worst in the nation racial equity gaps, while also having the highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the country. Building a movement for $15/hour, linked to other pro-worker policies and increased membership in unions, is a method to reverse the economic devastation working people have faced under decades of neo-liberalism, and win a more just society for all.

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