What is ESST?

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ESST: What does this stand for? Earned Sick and Safe Time

Let’s begin this conversation with a news article by the Duluth News Tribune Editorial Board printed November 18, 2018.

“In May, the Duluth City Council approved a sick-and-safe-time ordinance without having any idea whatsoever how much it might cost taxpayers.

Worse, as Mayor Emily Larson revealed in an interview this week with the News Tribune Editorial Board, no city councilor even asked her or her administration about potential costs.”That did not happen,” Larson said.

Now we know the cost — at least initially. The mayor included $140,000 in her 2019 budget proposal for a less-than-full-time point person to oversee the ordinance’s enforcement, including reaching out to and educating business operators about its requirements, responding to concerns and complaints, and preparing printed educational materials. An earned sick and safe time coordinator is to be hired by the second quarter of next year under the proposed budget and in accordance with a city timeline for implementation. The ordinance goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The proposed $140,000 allocation would come from the city’s general fund, meaning its money that could be spent otherwise on things like public safety, fixing streets, plowing snow, treating our drinking water, and more.

And while Duluth taxpayers can hope fewer tax dollars will be needed in coming years, as the requirement to provide paid sick days for employees becomes entrenched and less city oversight is needed, it seems at least as likely that costs will only rise. Consider Minneapolis, where doubling the number of full-time city workers who enforce a similar ordinance, from three to six, has been proposed.

The debate in Duluth over spending public tax dollars to enforce a city law that 90 percent of businesses already are in compliance with, according to a 2017 city survey, was a heated one. But it has been settled, Mayor Larson said. The focus now can be on responsible enforcement, she said.

“We make a mistake if we don’t staff it well. Then I think we detract. Then it’s complicated and chaotic,” said Larson. “(Having) one point of contact makes it consistent and fluid; that provides a reliability that our biz community has told me they need, especially as it relates to policies that get passed at the political level. …

“We’re going to do it right,” she continued, “and we’re basing it on what we’ve learned has happened in other communities, where it’s gone really well and where it’s gone off the rails.”

The city’s hunt for best practices has included an internal working group, “significant research,” and visits to Minneapolis and St. Paul to study their enforcement, City Clerk Chelsea Helmer said in an interview with the News Tribune Opinion page, also this week.

“We’ve already tracked our timeline for implementation,” Helmer said. “We greatly understand this is going to impact the business community. And we know that if you’re a business, you’re planning a year in advance. So we’re doing the same thing.”

Yes, workers in Duluth should be able to bank paid days off to use when they or a loved one are sick or when there’s an emergency. But with most workers in Duluth already able to do that, spending $140,000 to enforce an unnecessary new city mandate — tax money that could be better spent on core services — is $140,000 too much.”

So…this is what the Mayor says, “spending $140,000 to enforce an unnecessary new city mandate” and yet nothing has been done by her office to detract. But the city funded $140,000 is not where it is going to end, it isn’t the whole story. This is why it is so important to have even a basic understanding of what they are mandating, who it affects and how far-reaching this new program has the potential to go.

Numbers: EMPLOYEES: There was a survey of citizens in Duluth asking for their input on this issue.  (A copy of 9 questions asked is attached.) When asked if they had access to paid, earned sick time at work 59.02% said yes. (265 people out of 449 people who answered anything.)  When asked if they had paid, earned safe time 98 people said yes, 207 said no. When asked if it was easy to access 257 said yes, 33 said no.  When asked if they feared repercussions for taking time off, eared or not 441 people answered with 170 saying yes and 271 saying no.

But…How did the Task Force present the numbers to the City Council?
34% of survey participants do not have access to paid, earned sick time at work.

47% of survey participants do not have access to paid, earned safe time at work.
39% of employees have feared repercussions for taking time off, earned or not.

EMPLOYERS: Only 143 Employers were asked similar questions. Question 1:Do you currently offer any type of earned “paid time off”, “paid sicktime”, or “paid safe time” benefit to your employees? 90% said yes, and only 9.7% said no. This was the only question given to the City Councilors.

They finished off their presentation by giving their own opinion.

Reflections on the Public Input from Task Force Members in Our Own Words:

“My initial impression was that stressed working people do not need additional stress in their lives. One missed day can equal a huge deficit in their financial and emotional lives. An ordnance has the potential to be a helpful stone dropped into the pond of our city’s neighborhoods. Where the ripples go is not our concern. Business owners who did not want to fill out a survey or explain their position on benefits gives me pause for thought. If we want a growing, diverse and vibrant city, this issue has to be addressed.”

“A total of 129 people attended the 3 sessions, 80 of which were for ESST, 13 ‘had concerns against it’ and 36 listened.”

What they aren’t saying: Costs to the consumers are going to go up. Businesses are going to think twice about moving to Duluth. Part-time jobs, student and senior jobs are at risk. This will affect non-profits, restaurants, the locally owned car repair owner, the banks, the bike repair shops, the meat markets… if a company has 5 or more employees they must begin to keep track or the city can sue them for non-compliance.


City of Duluth
Earned Sick and Safe Time

The City Council’s Summary (You must review the answers given to fully appreciate this Summary. It is not clear that they were reading the same set of answers given by employees and employers as printed. See: http://www.duluthmn.gov/media/542800/council-presentation-esst-survey-summary.pdf.)

Copied From: http://www.duluthmn.gov/city-clerk/earned-sick-and-safe-time/

On May 29, 2018, the Duluth City Council adopted Ordinance No. 10571 establishing minimum standards for earned sick and safe time in the City of Duluth. The Ordinance takes effect on January 1, 2020.

SUMMARY ONLY, Please read the entire chapter at the link above.

          CHAPTER 29E

Sec. 29E‑1      Purpose.

This Chapter is adopted for the following reasons:

(a)  To promote the health and safety of the citizens of the city of Duluth by limiting exposure and spread of infectious diseases; and
(b)  To promote the health and welfare of workers in the city of Duluth by making it possible for workers to address their own health needs and the health needs of their families; and
(c)  To reduce healthcare costs by allowing workers to seek medical care for themselves and their family members, preventing minor medical issues from developing into major medical problems; and
(d)  To assist victims of domestic violence and their families by providing paid leave for treatment and protective action; (e)  To promote economic security and stability of workers and businesses in the city of Duluth by balancing the needs of both workers and employers.

Sec. 29E‑2      Definitions.

(a)  Calendar year. 12 Months based on employer or an employee’s employment anniversary date.
(b)  City. City means the city of Duluth.
(c)  Child. Child means Employee’s biological, adopted, step or foster child., legal ward or child whom the employee
is legal guardian regardless of age.
(d)  Domestic abuse. Domestic abuse has the meaning given in Minnesota Statutes Sec. 518B.01.
(e)  ESST. Earned sick and safe time means leave, including paid time off and other paid‑leave
systems, paid at the same hourly rate as an employee earns from employment that may be used for the same
purpose as prescribed in Sec. 29E‑3.

(f)  Employee. Employee means any person employed by an employer who performs work within the geographic boundaries of the city for more than 50 percent of the employee’s working time in a 12‑month period or is based in the city of Duluth and spends a substantial part of his or her time working in the city and does not spend more than 50 percent of their work‑time in a 12‑month period in any other particular place. For the purposes of this chapter, employee does not include the following:

(1)  Independent contractors;
(2)  Student interns;
(3)  Seasonal employees; and
(4)  Any person entitled to benefits under or otherwise covered by the federal Railroad Unemployment Insurance
Act, 45 U.S.C. Sections 351 et.seq.

(g)  Employer. Employer means an individual, corporation, partnership, association, nonprofit organization or a group of persons who has 5 or more employees whether or not the employees work in the city. The number of employees is determined based on the average number of employees per week during the previous calendar year. Absent a contractual agreement stating otherwise, a temporary employee supplied by a staffing agency or similar entity shall be considered an employee of the staffing agency for all purposes of this chapter.  For purposes of this chapter, employer does not include:

(1)  The United States government;
(2)  The state, including any officer, department, agency, authority institution, association, society, or other body
of the state including the legislature and the judiciary; or
(3)  Any county or local government except the city of Duluth.

(h)  Family member. Family member means employee’s: