Noble Intentions May Generate Unintended Negative Consequences

David Ross

Ten months ago, our Duluth City Council approved a resolution creating an eleven-member task force to study the potential impact of a possible Earned Sick and Safe Time Ordinance for our city. The requested ordinance will require employers, located in Duluth, to offer paid sick and safe time to employees.

The resolution was approved on a 5 to 2 vote. Councilors Jay Fosle and Howie Hanson voted against the resolution. Councilors Noah Hobbs and Em Westerlund were absent.

The Council’s resolution was precipitated by a request made by a coalition of ten organizations united under the attractive and benign name, Vision Duluth. At first glance, the Earned Sick and Safe Time Ordinance appears to be a noble and well intentioned initiative.

Unfortunately, it may have harmful and counter-productive consequences for the employers who provide needed jobs within our beloved community. Many of these employers do not anticipate that an Earned Sick and Safe Ordinance will be attractive nor do they believe it will be benign. If the proposed ordinance mirrors that of the recently approved St. Paul and Minneapolis ordinances, it could have an unintended negative impact on many of Duluth’s employers.

Specifically, some employers fear the Twin Cities ordinances include conditions for taking sick and safe leave that are overly broad and will harm employers and coworkers. Employers who have reviewed the St. Paul and Minneapolis ordinances also point out how the ordinances do not require the employee to strive to minimize the disruption to their employer and coworkers. Additionally, the ordinances do not provide protections for an employer to address sick and safe time fraud and abuse. Furthermore, the ordinances do not provide an exemption for collectively bargained employees.

It appears it is premature for Vision Duluth to push to have the Duluth City Council implement this mandate. We do not have a calculation of the proposed ordinance’s economic impact on Duluth’s employers. Nor does it appear that Vision Duluth recognizes that Duluth’s employers already are required to honor State and Federal laws that allow employees to obtain leave from work.

Thankfully, community members will soon have another opportunity to share their perspective with members of the Earned Sick and Safe Time Task Force. The Taskforce is hosting three Public Input Sessions: 1) Wednesday, July 12, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., at The Sports Garden, 425 South Lake Avenue, 2) Wednesday, July 19, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., in the Duluth City Hall Council Chambers, Room 300, 411 West First Street, and 3) Thursday, July 27, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., at Community Action Duluth, 2424 West 5th Street.

Please take advantage of these opportunities to convey to task force members how this proposed ordinance will impact you and your workplace. Doing so will increase the likelihood that the Duluth City Council will make a more informed decision. It may keep them from acting on noble intentions that may generate unintended negative consequences for Duluth’s employers.

In support,




David Ross, President & CEO