Column By: Doug Loon, President of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
The Minnesota Chamber continues to challenge workplace mandates at the Legislature and in the courts. A recent court ruling underscores the importance of our parallel efforts.
A Minneapolis ordinance is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2017, that requires businesses to provide paid sick time to employees. St. Paul has a similar ordinance scheduled to take effect the same date. Duluth is considering enacting its own set of workplace regulations. It’s only time before similar measures come to a city near you.
In October 2016, the Minnesota Chamber brought a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis asking the court to do two things: No. 1, issue a temporary injunction prohibiting the city from enforcing its “paid sick and safe time” ordinance on any businesses; No. 2, permanently rule the ordinance unlawful.
The Hennepin County District Court delivered a mixed ruling on January 19. Judge Mel I. Dickstein said Minneapolis may not enforce its ordinance on employers “resident outside the geographic boundaries of the city of Minneapolis.” He also ordered that, for now, the city could enforce the ordinance against employers within the city. We are appealing the decision.
The judge’s mixed ruling underscores the importance of our efforts at the Capitol to pass the Uniform State Labor Standards Act, which would prohibit local governments from passing their own mandates on wages, benefits and scheduling. The Act would keep Minnesota’s laws uniform, our communities open for business, and our economy thriving for all.
The legislation is being spearheaded by the United for Jobs Coalition, a broad-based coalition of local chambers of commerce and business associations led by the Minnesota Chamber.
We do not believe the state should dictate private-sector employee benefits. The only thing worse than state government dictating one-size-fits-all mandates on all employers is for local governments to do so, thus creating a patchwork of local laws for businesses to navigate across the state. Minnesota’s economic strength is due to a diverse business landscape. Distinctive operations and workplace needs require that employers have the flexibility to develop wages and salaries, benefits, policies and procedures that best serve the mutual needs of employer and employees.
Borrowing a sports phrase, the best defense is a strong offense. Minnesota employers consistently receive national recognition for providing tremendous workplace environments. We will continue to challenge workplace mandates. At the same time, legislators also need to hear about the voluntary wages and benefit plans employers use to attract and retain employees in this competitive marketplace. Minnesota businesses increasingly are offering leave plans that meet the needs of employees such as offer paid maternity and paternity leave, paid sick and safe leave, and other benefits– without state or local mandates. Please share your best practices by contacting Jennifer Byers at 651.292.4673 or email@example.com.
Each New Year brings a new dynamic to the River Heights Chamber of Commerce with some new Board members, while saying good-bye to a few who have given their time and leadership for a number of years. At the end of 2016, the Board of Directors said good-bye to Gail Sperlich (OnSITE Drug Testing & Consulting) and Tom Fleury (City Auto Glass). In 2017, we’re happy to welcome new Chairman, Jon Erickson (Ultimate Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning) and new Board members Joe Gullerud (Bester Brothers Transfer), Michele Hein (Tandem Printing) and Luke Jenkins (Woodlyn Heights Senior Living).
The River Heights Chamber of Commerce looks forward to working with these great individuals who govern our organization, uphold its mission and assist the Chamber in supporting our business communities.
Check out all the 2017 River Heights Chamber Board of Directors photos and companies here!
The River Heights Chamber of Commerce is teaming up with Langer Real Estate Services to celebrate their 25th Anniversary and to celebrate the River Heights Chamber’s member volunteers this year!
We hope you can join us for this Holiday Business Card Exchange & Chamber Volunteer Appreciation Open House:
Thursday, December 15, 2016
5:00 – 6:30 p.m.
Southview Country Club, 239 E. Mendota Road, West St. Paul
There is no cost to attend the event, however, RSVP’s are appreciated – click here for more details.
The event is co-sponsored by Langer Real Estate Services and Dakota Electric Association.
Voters Demand Progress at Legislature
By: Jennifer Gale, President, River Heights Chamber & Doug Loon, President Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
Change swept the nation in this year’s elections as America woke up to a President-Elect Donald Trump in his upset victory over Hillary Clinton. Change propelled the shakeup in Minnesota’s political landscape, too, as Minnesotans affirmed their support for divided government. The Legislature is now firmly Republican. The executive branch remains Democrat under Governor Mark Dayton.
Voters were also crystal clear about their expectations that the Governor and Legislature will govern – that they will work together to develop, debate and pass solutions to our state’s most pressing problems. No stalemates. No stagnation. Our policymakers must use the experience of the last two years to build a record of progress that all Minnesotans will be proud of. The River Heights Chamber, Minnesota Chamber and our local partners are ready to do our part.
The election offers some key takeaways:
- Personal economics were on Minnesotans minds – especially health care, but also economic growth and wage growth. Everyone wants to be part of a growing economy.
- Good candidates and hard work produce solid results.
- The House and Senate are mirroring each other in the state’s political landscape. Democrats are being elected primarily in the urban core and are increasingly liberal; Republicans hail in primarily the outer ring suburbs and regional centers.
- Republicans are making substantive gains in the suburbs that we have not seen for years.
The Senate now stands at 34 Republicans and 33 Democrats, according to unofficial results. Two races are within the vote totals that trigger automatic recounts. Margins in the House are larger with 76 Republicans and 57 Democrats elected. In addition, one House seat remains unresolved; a special election is scheduled for February 14 for District 32B.
We are ready to present, discuss and help pass solutions that will accelerate the development and growth of our local and statewide economy. The MN Chamber’s annual Minnesota Business Benchmarks provides an excellent springboard for our legislative agenda. The River Heights Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors will be reviewing these priorities for 2017:
- Reduce business taxes that undermine growth, entrepreneurship and expansion of Minnesota businesses.
- Pass long-term, comprehensive transportation package that increases investment in the state’s multimodal infrastructure.
- Allow flexibility in workplace regulations and oppose one-size-fits-all mandates; pass statewide pre-emption of local labor mandates.
- Provide employers with more options and greater flexibility in providing health care coverage for employees.
The election provides the political landscape for the 2017 Legislature. The budget forecast will set the financial parameters. The 2016 Legislature adjourned with a $729 million surplus for FY 2016/17 which will likely change in the December 2nd report. We are most effective at the Capitol when we build relationships and elect legislators who understand business issues.
The 2017 Legislature convenes January 4, and our work has already begun. The election results are shaping our 2017 proposals. Now, policymakers and business leaders must work collectively to adopt them. That way we will be ready for the future – ready for change and ready to grow.
Minnesota Chamber challenges Minneapolis paid sick time ordinance
By Doug Loon, President, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce
Minnesota is blessed with a diverse business landscape – all sizes and types of companies that make up the economic fabric of our state from border to border. Visit any community and see for yourself.
A manufacturer with a couple of hundred employees working shifts. A Main Street retailer providing jobs for a dozen full- and part-time workers. A hospital whose round-the-clock operations often demand that it contracts with an out-of-town company to provide emergency services. A trucking company crisscrossing the state to serve its clients.
Each business has distinctive operations and workplace needs. Each develops wages and salaries, benefits, policies and procedures that best serve the needs of employer and employees. It’s a sure bet the companies don’t share a uniform employee handbook.
Yet, that’s exactly what the city of Minneapolis is mandating with a new ordinance requiring businesses to provide paid sick time leave. The law takes effect July 1, 2017. In a nutshell, companies with six or more employees must provide paid sick and safe time to all employees who work within the city limits at least 80 hours within a year. Companies must comply with the ordinance even if they do not have a location in the city – or even in Minnesota, for that matter.
The Minnesota Chamber has filed a lawsuit to challenge the paid sick time ordinance. The lawsuit asks the judge to strike down the ordinance and in the meantime prevent the city of Minneapolis from enforcing it. The ordinance is unlawful because it conflicts with state law and seeks to regulate in a policy area that is a statewide concern. Simply put, we seek to ensure consistency of workplace laws and prevent a patchwork of city-by-city workplace regulations.
Businesses already have an incentive to compete for employees by offering the best mix of wage and benefits packages. We wholeheartedly support and encourage employers to provide employees with flexible, paid options for providing care to their families.
Flexibility is the key, however. It’s a far better approach to have employers sit down with employees to develop policies that work for individual workplaces. Imposing a one-size-fits-all mandate stifles any creativity and flexibility with a straightjacket.
At the forefront of our efforts is collecting examples of “best practices” in paid sick leave policies from our members and sharing them with the broader business community. We’d like to hear from as many businesses as possible. Please send your examples to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our lawsuit, filed in conjunction with a group of co-plaintiffs, will be watched closely. St. Paul has passed a similar ordinance also scheduled to take effect July 1, 2017. Duluth is considering a local ordinance, too. It’s only a matter of time before other efforts “come to a town near you.”
Beyond the legal flaws, the Minneapolis law is particularly troublesome in practical ways:
- The ordinance imposes significant administrative burdens by requiring companies to track exactly how many hours their employees work within the city limits and to pay lawyers to interpret the ordinance. These burdens will become even greater if other cities enact their own varying ordinances.
- The ordinance extends far beyond the boundaries of Minneapolis. Companies that deliver goods and services into the city, who have employees who telecommute from Minneapolis, or who otherwise have employees who attend meetings and events in Minneapolis will find themselves subject to the ordinance – perhaps unwittingly.
The lawsuit parallels the Minnesota Chamber’s efforts at the Legislature to make explicit the fact that state law preempts municipal regulation of wages and benefits. We, along with our local chamber partners, will renew our efforts in 2017 after the Legislature failed to take action this year.
Employers need consistent, statewide workplace regulations. However, mandates on everyday business operations are not appropriate coming from any level of government. Businesses across the state already are adopting paid leave policies designed to meet the particular needs of their enterprise and their employees. State and local policymakers should be encouraging this trend and not imposing one-size-fits-all mandates.
Doug Loon is president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce – www.mnchamber.com.
Minnesota Chamber Releases Minnesota Business Benchmarks
Annual report reaffirms innovative, skilled talent; workforce shortage a growing concern
A talented workforce remains a backbone of a growing Minnesota economy, according to the Minnesota Business Benchmarks. But the second annual report produced by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and its local Chamber Federation partners cautions that Minnesota could be losing its advantage.
“Our members regularly cite shortage of workers and high taxes as the two biggest impediments to growing and investing in Minnesota. The difficulty of finding workers at all skill levels across all industries is a huge issue for Minnesota businesses,” Chamber President Doug Loon said. “The problem already is exacerbated by a slowing growth in the working-age population coupled with the retiring baby boomers. Plus, we struggle with the persistent achievement gap among students of color.”
The report highlights an additional strain on the workforce. Minnesota is losing more people to other states than it is gaining. This trend is hindering growth opportunities for many companies, Loon said.
Business Benchmarks is a collection of key economic indicators that measure Minnesota’s competitiveness and the health of the state’s economy compared with the rest of the country. Comprehensive, objective data was compiled from sources such as state and federal agencies.
Minnesota continues to lead in many categories, the report shows. But it is slipping in key areas, too.
On the positive front, innovation remains a trademark with Minnesota ranking fourth highest among states in patents per capita. The state ranks second in the nation for residents with at least a two-year degree. It is 10th best in concentration of STEM jobs – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The good news/bad news dynamics, however, are reflected in economic growth, Loon said. Minnesota ranked 13th among states for GDP growth in 2015, up from 27th the previous year and tied at the national average of 2.4-percent growth. That improvement, however, was largely on the strength of the first quarter. Minnesota ranked 41st when viewing GDP growth for the final three quarters of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016.
Minnesota improved in job growth and personal income growth but still lags the national averages – ranking 29th and 30th, respectively, Loon noted. And its standing in key tax categories was largely unchanged from 2014. The state is still third highest in the nation for its corporate and income tax rates, and second highest for some business property taxes.
The Business Benchmarks provides an excellent springboard for priorities to focus on at the 2017 Legislature, Loon said. Policymakers and business leaders must work collectively to build on the state’s strengths and minimize its weaknesses.
“We cannot rest on our past successes. We must continue to adapt to changing competitive pressures,” Loon said. “Our work at the Minnesota Chamber is to make Minnesota ready for the future – ready for change and ready to grow.”
For the full report, click here.