Post by Kathleen Lohmar Exel, Foundation Director
August was Healthcare Day and the class was able to look at Healthcare Systems through an Equity Lens. Bruce Thao, Director of the Center for Health Equity & Office of Minority & Multicultural Health, as the keynote speaker and he framed the day with the question of: Minnesota is consistently ranked as the one of the healthiest states in the nation, but healthiest for whom? Much like opportunity gaps for minority populations exist for students in school and minority populations are incarcerated at a higher rate than the Caucasian population, those same gaps exist in healthcare and accessing the system. In addition to studying the system from an Equity lens, the class also toured the HealthPartners Neuroscience Center, and discussed how finding a sense of belonging influences health, how nature and physical/built enviroments impact health, and did a case study on how the system is addressing the Opioid Crisis. It was an extremely informative and engaging day from start to finish. Speaking of finish, the class enjoyed another great visit to Brunson’s Pub, owned by Thomas LaFleche and Molly Murphy (LSP 2017).
We’re grateful to Kari Willey of HealthPartners (LSP 2015) for chairing the day and to her committee of Ann Brombach, HealthPartners & Erin Bursch, Children’s Hospital Association (both of LSP 2016) and Marnie Falk, Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare & Sarah Johnson, Regions Hospital (both of LSP 2017). No LSP Day would happen without the talent and dedication of the Chairs and committee volunteers—Thank you!
The Citizens League Minimum Wage Study Committee met on Thursday, August 16, 2018 for their last meeting at University of St. Thomas. Check out last week’s recap on the thirteenth meeting here if you missed it.
The committee started the meeting discussing their thoughts and comments on last week’s meeting. A concerned member opened the discussion on tip credit and encouraged members to look at the tip adjustment more deeply. Another concerned member reminded the committee that the restaurant and beverage industry is a very broad business and that its value to our economy should not be overlooked. Other members commented based on their experience and the past week’s findings, as well as their overall experience with this process to date.
Thomas Durfee presented his final research to the committee on employment and earnings effects of minimum wage tiers. Thomas updated his input on the benefits cliff “if a family is on MFIP, they automatically skip the waiting list” to receive other benefits such as CCAP. Cities and counties can contribute dollars to their own CCAP. Last, working students under the age of 18 do not count towards CCAP, energy assistance, Section 8, or SNAP eligibility. Thomas updated his research on wage tiers for workers with a disability and reported there are no studies that discussed minimum or subminimum wage specifically. Instead, the studies he has found have focused on discrimination based on disability status. Based on two scholarly publications on tips and employment, Thomas reported economists have serious debates on the effects of earned tips and hours for full service workers. Click here to see Thomas Durfee’s research update.
The Citizens League staff reviewed the committee’s past week of homework, that included drafting potential scenarios for consideration and voting during this final meeting. Members discussed their concerns about implementation of a proposed ordinance, among them being: the phase-in time, how businesses would comply, how and in what capacity the City will be able to provide enforcement, Other concerns were raised about more specifics in proposed recommendations: disability workers, youth workers, seasonal workers, micro businesses, revenue vs head count to determine a business size. The committee largely agreed that they simply did not have enough time to delve deeply enough into all the issues, which left them feeling somewhat hampered in their ability to be more specific in recommendations.
After significant discussion and subsequent whittling down of scenarios on which the committee would vote, three scenarios remained on the table and all will be advanced into the final report. Citizens League staff will send a draft for committee review/approval prior to submission to the City by the deadline, August 31.
The meeting ended with closing remarks. Co-Chairs B Kyle and Rick Varco thanked everyone for participating in the study task force. They gave special thanks to the Office of Mayor Melvin Carter, Office of Council Member Chris Tolbert, and the Citizens League.
The finalized report is due on August 31, 2018.
The third session is scheduled for Saturday, September 15 from 9:00 AM - 11:15 AM at the Hmong Elders Center located at 1337 Rice Street, Saint Paul, MN 55117. RSVP here. Share on Facebook here.
The fourth session is scheduled for Thursday, September 20 from 5:30 PM - 8:30 PM at the Palace Community Center located at 781 Palace Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55102. RSVP here. Share on Facebook here.
The Citizens League Minimum Wage Study Committee met on Thursday, August 9, 2018, at the University of St. Thomas. Check out last week’s recap on the 12th meeting here if you missed it.
The committee reflected and debriefed on last week’s meeting. Members shared their concerns on the short amount of time they have left.
Thomas Durfee’s research update to the committee was a progress report on Wage Compression, the Benefits Cliff, and Firm Size. Wage Compression is “when the distribution of wages within a firm is closer together” and it matters to minimum wage because “Distribution may be a goal. High compression means more equality and low compression means less room for change.” Thomas disclosed to the committee that the case studies he reviewed were small sample sizes. Which is unfortunate and revealed that there is a necessity for more research and data on wage compression before and after effects.
Thomas then moved on to the next update: understanding the benefits cliff. Programs to consider are: Medicaid, Section 8, Child Care Assistant Program (CCAP), and Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). For the sake of time, Thomas broke down the information from Children’s Defense Fund into hypothetical situations, based on Ramsey County cutoffs, and household eligibility vs benefits actually received. Overall, assuming there is a phase-in to $15/hr minimum wage, the vast majority will lose their benefits gradually starting at approximately $13/hr, while ramp-ups to significant benefits takes more time. Only a small niche would be in a better financial position than they are today -- primarily a single with no children. Committee members pointed out that housing expense was not reflected in the graph, though it can have significant impact on the benefits cliff. Another concerning issue in the hypothetical household scenarios was that families making a $15 minimum wage may be better off, assuming they actually are receiving the benefits for which they are eligible. That is not always the reality. Due to time constraints, firm size and tips were not discussed. Click here to see Thomas’s progress report on wage compression, benefits cliff, and firm size.
Prior to the meeting, the committee members were given homework to analyze and propose various minimum wage scenarios. During the remainder of this meeting, then, the submitted write-ups were presented to the committee and voted on anonymously. The intent was to identify potential areas of agreement across the committee members and where, perhaps, the widest gaps in agreement would be identified. The proposed scenarios addressed the main areas of focus: is $15/hr minimum wage the right number and should it be indexed to inflation (or not); various versions of a proposed tip adjustment (or not); proposed exemptions; and a wide range of potential phase-in time periods.
Next week is the last meeting of the $15 Minimum Wage Study Committee, during which the committee will review and complete their recommendations on minimum wage for the City of Saint Paul. Questions and requests for additional meetings were requested, but the Citizens League is scheduled to deliver its final report on August 31. There will be an opportunity for formal public input following that date. Stay tuned for details in the coming weeks.
The Citizens League Minimum Wage Study Committee met on Thursday, July 19, 2018, at the University of St. Thomas. Check out last week’s recap on the ninth meeting here if you missed it.
Given the packed agenda of this meeting, recap of last week’s meeting was brief. Comments shared showed a concern for enforcement, franchises, and the effectiveness of last week’s panel discussion.
Following last week’s meeting debrief, Snowden Stieber presented an overview of exemptions. This overview gave an analysis of the types of exemption: category, size, age, and time. Stieber broke them down further into employer-based and employee-based exemptions. He also provided a comparison of exemptions on the State level and in Minneapolis. To see Stieber’s full report click here.
This week’s panel was comprised of a disability advocacy consultant at Akcess Associates, the chair of government relations practice at Fredrikson & Byron P.A, the LEAP director at Project for Pride Living, and the Executive Director of Cookie Cart. The agenda for this panel was to give insight on disabled workers and youth workers.
Kevin Goodno spoke on behalf of the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation, an organization that has not taken a position on the issue but that has members both in favor and opposed to an increase to $15. He gave an overview of DT&H (day training and habilitation services). Services are provided in a variety of cities, and the amount of time spent in Saint Paul can vary. These services refer to those provided by direct care workers who are paid to work with people with disabilities. Disabled citizens who consume these services, are not paid. Between 95-100% of revenue in this field comes from medical assistance. Given the complexity of DT&H work and everything that it entails, an increase in the minimum wage certainly would bring with it some complications – particularly because medical assistance revenue levels are capped and outside of the control of city ordinances.
Rick Cardenas, the panelist speaking on behalf of disabled workers and those who assist them, explained how the disabled typically are hired, but there was some confusion amongst committee members. With complexities such as workers interacting in multiple cities and reimbursement for those supporting disabled workers, it was challenging to capture a clear picture of what is currently being done. However, the desire to have higher reimbursement rates and full employment with benefits (as opposed to contract work) was made clear.
Matt Halley, also a committee member, gave an overview of the Cookie Cart business model, which essentially pays youth to work and learn simultaneously - an earn-to-learn model. Currently in Saint Paul, Cookie Cart hires approximately 100 teenagers to work 4-5 hours a week each, and pays them above the current minimum wage in addition to paying their taxes and social security. While Cookie Cart is not at all opposed to the idea of paying $15, the concern is that every dollar that wages increase will translate to approximately $15,000 in expenses.
Kristy Snyder, the final panelist, expressed her opinion that a $15 wage is an issue of equity. She explained that the despite the development and training that nonprofits provide, young people will choose jobs that pay more. Therefore, in order to keep youth motivated to stay with training programs, nonprofits like Cookie Cart have to offer competitive wages.
Kristy serves on a committee for Step-Up (the Minneapolis equivalent to Right Track), and says that they plan on getting to $15. That said, she also acknowledged that the number of participants likely will have to decrease due to the increased cost, and the program will have to be more intentional about targeting those most in need or at risk. She feels like this is an investment that that should be made, for the benefit of the City in the long run.
In committee discussion, it was clear that everyone understood why $15 is important and would be valuable in youth training, but no one could an answer as to how this will be done without cutting programs or getting money from other organizations or the government. The primary problem with looking to the government is that they will be facing their own expenses with an increase in minimum wage, and citizens ultimately will bear that cost through taxes.
The committee expressed a desire for more conversations/recommendations on potential exemptions. However, there is a concern that there is too much of a focus on “What are the exemptions?” rather than “What are the solutions?”
Next week, the panel will be hearing from Minnesota Private Colleges on the impact of $15 to college students who get paid for work as part of financial aid packages.
The committee, and the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, want to pause and send sincere condolences to the family and friends of Doug Hennes, University of St. Thomas. Doug was a member of this study committee, a former SPACC board member, and always deeply invested in the community. He will be greatly missed.
The Citizens League Minimum Wage Study Committee met on Thursday, July 12, 2018, at the University of St. Thomas. Check out last’s week recap on the eighth meeting here if you missed it.
Co-Chairs Rick Varco and B Kyle asked the committee members to reflect on June 28 meeting. The members appreciated hearing from the low wage worker panel. The committee thought the restaurant owner from Seattle gave meaningful insights on her experience with $15 minimum wage in her community, but it does not feel relatable to many of the members since the two cities have their own unique challenges.
One committee member expressed an opinion that the new minimum wage ordinance must be coupled with an action plan educating business owners on how to sustain their business with the challenges that will come their way.
Thomas Durfee updated the committee on his findings for pay levels by race/ethnicity. Thomas indicated that these data sets do not have a specific breakdown of the Hmong and Somalian population, though they are two of the largest ethnic groups in Minnesota. One takeaway from his presentation that drew comment from the committee was the Share of Race/Ethnicity by Pay Level, which showed that 20% non-white Hispanic are making below $7.76 per hour vs 8% of white Non-Hispanic. His presentation can be found here.
The next agenda item was the “Tip Penalty Panel” that consisted of servers, a cook, state and federal staff, and restaurant owner/committee member Sam Peterson. All are opposed to a tip adjustment.
Eli Edleson-Stein, a server at St. Genevieve and organizer with Restaurant Opportunities Center, presented on their view of a tip adjustment: “A tip penalty is a policy that allows an employer to pay a worker a subminimum wage if that worker receives tips.” The Center’s main concern is that employers are legally required to make up the difference but that accountability often doesn’t happen. According to Eli’s presentation, the average tipped wait staff in St. Paul makes $12.77 per hour, compared to the top 30 percentile of wait staff in St. Paul averaging $20.31 per hour. And not every server has the opportunity to work at a fine dining restaurant where wages are exponentially greater than the average. Eli credited Minnesota not having a tip adjustment for over 30 years which resulted in the fewest in poverty compared to our neighboring states where tipped workers are experiencing 20% - 25% poverty. Eli’s presentation and additional resources on a tip adjustment can be found here.
Sam Peterson, committee member and owner of Kyatchi, shared his company’s specific experience on how the month of June 2018 looked like for his businesses – and how a $15 wage will impact his business. His average server and bartender made $23/hr in tips + $9.65 minimum wage = $32.65/hr after 20% of the tips are generally shared with the staff. Sam does not believe the $15 minimum wage “will collapse the restaurant industry or that servers are all going to lose their jobs.” Sam’s comments can be found here.
Kristin Tout, Assistant District Director of U.S Department of Labor, Wage & Hour Division, recognizes that enforcing employers’ legal obligation to guarantee rightful wages to employees will continue to be challenging. In Kristin’s line of work, some employers already not paying their employees correctly – though she acknowledges that most errors appear to be due to lack of understanding rather than intent to defraud. Enforcing a tip adjustment will only add on to Kristin’s load. One panel member disagreed with her -- Ken Peterson, Commissioner of Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, said “there will be loses but not at macro”.
The panel also shared their sexual harassment experiences from customers, which ranged from comments to touching and inappropriate behavior. Harassment was more prominent in gender discrimination, according to the three servers. The context of this discussion is that servers who depend on tips for a good portion of their income can feel unduly pressed to endure harassment.
The committee discussed in depth their next steps after hearing from the panel. Next week, the committee will be hearing a report on firm “birth and death” rates (that is, the time when a business is created or goes out of business).
Guest blog post by American Cancer Society
Nearly 250,000 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.
That could be your mother, sister, daughter, your wife, or even you.
Join us for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of the Twin Cities on Saturday, October 27 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The American Cancer Society host Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks across the country so anyone touched by breast cancer won't have to face their diagnosis alone. We do it to raise awareness and money to fund research, support services, and early detection. Ultimately, Making Strides events help save lives.
The money is used to fund innovative research, provide free information and support programs to patients and caregivers, and to help reduce breast cancer risks or find it early when it's most treatable. That's why your participation in these walks is absolutely critical to our success. The more money we can raise through these walks, the bigger the impact we can make on cancer.
Money raised this year could go towards developing the next generation of lifesaving treatments. Which means you could be a part of the next big breast cancer breakthrough!
Here are a few ways you & your company can get involved:
The Citizens League Minimum Wage Study Committee met on Thursday, June 21, 2018, at the University of St. Thomas. Check out last’s week recap on the sixth meeting here if you missed it.
Co-chair B Kyle opened the meeting by asking for feedback on the last week’s meeting. The networking activity had a good response from the committee members. They just wish they had more time to do more!
At that point members voiced questions about the process and work plan of the task force into the coming weeks. Several felt that they are ready to bring their suggestions to the table. Pahoua Hoffman reminded the committee that they are still in phase one: the learning phase. “You can’t learn and defend at the same time.” She will bring the timeline next week; however, committee members are encouraged to continue collecting data and holding their recommendations until next month.
The theme of this meeting was “tip credit.”
First, the committee heard a presentation from Jennifer Schellenberg, server from Northbound Smokehouse & Pub and representative of Restaurant Workers of America. Jennifer introduced the committee to three potential minimum wage tiers:
The presentation went over the time due to the intensity of the topic. The Citizens League staff will be working on more visual and digestible infographics on how the tip credit and super wage would apply. Jennifer’s presentation can be found here. Other related articles and reports Jennifer mentioned in her presentation can also be found here.
The committee spent some time discussing the loophole on reporting cash tips. It is federal law to report all tips earned – both cash and those paid electronically on a credit or debit card – but, unfortunately, when cash has little of an accountability trail, servers acknowledge that at least some of that cash goes unreported.
The committee had little time left to hear from other panelists who represented food and beverage industry. Jamie Robison, majority owner of Northbound Smokehouse & Pub, spoke to his challenges and his recommended solutions to the committee. His document can be found here.
Torrence Beavers, Executive Chef at Brunson’s Pub, shared with the committee the harsh reality of being a “back of the house” staff person. “We are the first to get cut [when employers go through financial crisis].”
Jeff Crandall, Bartender at Eagle Street Grille, attested that the tip credit is crucial for employees like him who depend on the extra income. He has over 20 years of restaurant experience from dish washer, host, server, cook, and bartender. A majority of tipped workers make more than the back-of-the-house staff -- almost or above $25/hr according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and it is becoming more difficult for restaurant owners to make a profit.
Robert Crew, Director of Food & Beverages Operations of Commonwealth Properties, shared with the committee his struggles keeping up with the finances of WA Frost. Even with the success of the restaurant, 41% of the revenue paid for labor in 2017 leaving 1-2% profit margins for the business. In 2015 they were making 5-6% profit margins.
The remaining meetings during the month of June will continue the topic of tip credit and adjustments. Committee meetings in July will solely be designated for discussing solutions and recommended actions.
The Citizens League Minimum Wage Study Committee met on Thursday, June 14, 2018, at the University of St. Thomas. Check out last’s week recap on the fifth meeting here if you missed it.
The committee began this week’s meeting by debriefing last week’s panel of small business owners. In retrospect, input of the panelists was undoubtedly valuable, and certainly credible. However, whether or not the panel was completely representative of the small business community of Saint Paul was a question raised.
Last week’s panel was composed solely of food and beverage industry professionals. Obviously, industrial diversity was a pertinent dynamic that was missing. With that, having the opinions of all industries represented became a greater priority. The challenge is how to respectfully gather opinions from underrepresented businesses while not conflicting with the time they otherwise would devote to running those businesses. Although 15 different businesses (including dry cleaners, corner stores, and other retail) were invited, it was unfortunate that more panelists were unable to attend.
The committee then discussed the idea that accepting statements from small business owners, or holding additional meetings with them, may be effective in bringing more ideas to the committee. It also would be inclusive to those who are unable to attend regular meetings due to time constraints. Such a possibility remains open.
The legal research update was brought by Snowden Stieber, Citizens League’s legal intern. The presentation was very direct in addressing the legal parameters of minimum wage laws in Saint Paul given current state laws. A major takeaway from his presentation was, “Cities may pass ordinances which are in addition to, but not in conflict, with state regulations. Cities also may not impose regulations that interfere with state agencies.” The legal research update can be found here.
Following the update, the committee participated in an exercise that was intended to help committee members get to know each other. Assignments in this exercise included sharing personal life motivations, and seeing how the motives of each member can connect. It was a successful activity that did well at showing the common interests that connect committee members. With justice and compassion being prominent themes, this exercise revealed the common desire to show an appreciation for and make a valuable contribution to the wider community.
Melanie McMahon, Legislative Aide of Councilmember Tolbert, and Jessi Kingston, Director of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity, both were able to come in and share on behalf of the City of Saint Paul. Getting an ordinance drafted and passed “is not a quick process,” said Melanie. Their presentations gave the committee a better understanding of what City ordinance passage, implementation, and enforcement process entails.
The effectiveness of implementation and outreach in the past, within the context of new ordinance implementation, was the most prevalent topic in discussion. This ultimately lead to the question of how does compliance look and, specifically, what does auditing, accounting, and payroll look like to businesses having to implement the change?
This discussion was effective in giving the committee an idea of what would be useful in its recommendations regarding ordinance implementation. Overall, this meeting was very informative as it pertains to city practices and legal limitations. Looking at the community report, the most outstanding comment was one that discussed state law regarding tip adjustment and how this influences the abilities of employers as well as the City of Saint Paul.
With just 8 meetings left, tip adjustment is a topic that is promised to come up in many more conversations, including next week’s meeting – where tip “credit” specifically will be discussed.
Guest blog post by Jack Semler, President & CEO, Readex Research
Do you remember what it felt like the last time you lost a customer? Surprised? Angry? Upset? And what did the unhappy customer do, at least as far as you know? Told someone else, texted, used social media to post a gripe. Then you and your team had to find a new customer! Think of the time, energy, money expended to find that “replacement” customer.
Most companies want to have a listening program in place, but don’t. There is the general thought that a Customer Experience (CX) listening process is too expensive, too complicated, takes too much time or demands too much from staff. All of this can be true if you don’t have a planned and focused program in place.
Customers who have complaints don’t know how to be heard. People prefer a safe and comfortable process; that it’s OK to voice their opinion. There is good news. Businesses that are serious about listening to their customers experiences have options when activating a productive process; beneficial for customers, employees and business.
Suggestions you can implement immediately:
These are all listening channels; opportunities where customers can actively engage with your business and share feedback about their experiences.
The most popular means for engaging and hearing from your customers is through online or mail surveys. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Our research recommends that a customer experience survey should be limited to no more than five questions.
Here are some survey tips:
If you do implement listening channels, take them seriously; be prepared to follow up quickly with the customer if an issue comes to your attention. Remember how you felt when you complained and nothing happened? Be different. Show the customer you care by taking action. A little attention goes a long way. www.readexresearch.com
Guest blog post by Natalia Madryga, Hylden Advocacy & Law
What is state bonding?
State bonds are a form of public debt that the State uses to pay for large-scale construction projects. There are a few types of State bonds, but the most common are State General Obligation (GO) Bonds. GO Bonds are fully backed by the state. There is no statutory or constitutional limit on the amount of debt the state can carry, but in 2009, the State issued formulas capping state bonding to ensure a good credit rating.
What can State bonding be used for?
There are constitutional restrictions for issuing GO bonds. Bond proceeds must be used for capital “bricks and mortar” projects. State bonding can only be used for land acquisition, predesign, design, construction, and major remodeling. Bonding cannot be used for operating expenses and costs, overhead, master planning, or general maintenance. Unlike more flexible state appropriations, GO bonding requires that the property or facility be owned by state or political subdivision and the program operated in that facility must have a public benefit.
Although private non-profits cannot directly receive GO bonding funds, local governments can serve as a public fiscal agent to allow state bonding for a project that will be managed for a non-profit’s purpose. This is done through a set of agreements: the non-profit provides a long-term lease for the bonding project site to the local entity serving as fiscal agent, which allows for GO bonds to be used for the project. Simultaneously, the local government fiscal agent enters a use agreement with the nonprofit for the purpose specified by the bonding legislation.
Typical projects receiving state GO bonding have statewide significance, such as university and college campuses, libraries, museums, state agency buildings, parks, trails, municipal infrastructure, zoos, water-treatment plants.
How do local governments and nonprofits secure state bonding?
A non-profit or local government entity can build support for a bonding request by first raising non-state funds dedicated to the project. The capital project can be completed in phases as well. Many capital projects come before the Legislature in multiple phases; first seeking funds to be used for site acquisition and/or planning, thereby making it more feasible to raise the private match and then return to the state for a request to complete the project.
Once a non-profit garners the support of the local unit of government and are added to their list of bonding priorities, non-profits must build support among state legislators – local delegation members, bonding committee members, and caucus leaders in the House and Senate. The next step is to secure a coveted spot on the local bonding tour agenda arranged by the House and Senate Capital Investment Committees with the local government officials and staff. These “bonding tours” are held during the interim, and legislators tour communities across the state to see first-hand the local infrastructure needs.
During the legislative session, a local legislator will introduce a bill and request a committee hearing. Powerful Senate and House committee chairs decide which projects they will fund and the total size of their bill. The bonding bill must pass the House and Senate with 3/5ths majority, so projects from members in the minority must also be included in the final package to have sufficient votes to pass. Once the Legislature reaches agreement and the bonding bill is passed by both the House and Senate, it must be signed into law by the Governor.
Securing state bonding is a feat in itself, but it is only the beginning. There are additional steps to be taken after the bonding bill passes and the project has been appropriated funds. Matching funds must be raised with proper documentation; predesign and design require state approval; and a grant agreement with the state must be signed.