Guest blog post by Clean Energy Economy Minnesota
From our crazy cold winters to Tater Tot Hotdish - Minnesota is known for a variety of things. But if you were posed with the question, “What comes to your mind when you think about Minnesota?” we bet clean energy wouldn’t be at the top of your list. But according to the recently released Clean Jobs Midwest Report, here’s why it should be: three reasons why Minnesota’s booming clean energy economy should be a point of Minnesota pride.
Fast-growing jobs with above-average wages
In 2017, clean energy jobs grew twice as fast as overall job growth in Minnesota, and now employ more than 59,000 Minnesotans. Not only that, but clean energy employers are projecting to add more than 2,600 jobs in the next year – that’s a growth rate of 4.6 percent. This means that clean energy is quickly and consistently adding jobs to Minnesota’s economy - and the wages are far from minimum. The average wage for a job in the clean energy industry in Minnesota is $71,000, that’s 42 percent higher than the statewide average. Clean energy is working hard for Minnesotans, providing an increasing amount of jobs with competitive wages; who wouldn’t want to brag about that?
Major money back in your pocket
While clean energy offers a plethora of employment opportunities, it simultaneously works to put money back in Minnesotans’ pockets. Energy efficiency, our largest clean energy sector with some 44,000 jobs, is adding jobs at a faster rate than the rest of the Midwest.
Minnesota is assisted in these jobs gains by having long-standing energy policies that prioritize efficiency in our utilities long-range planning. In fact, one of Minnesota’s most successful energy policies, called the Conservation Improvement Program (or CIP) has helped save Minnesotans $6 billion since 1998. For every public dollar spent on the program, it returns $4 dollars in economic benefits.
We think all Minnesotans should be proud of our state’s commitment to saving energy!
Minnesota is a clean energy leader
Minnesota is a leading example of how beneficial clean energy can be. All three of Minnesota’s largest clean energy sectors experienced growth between 2016 and 2017, despite the overall Midwest experiencing a decline in clean energy jobs. In fact, jobs in our two largest sectors, energy efficiency and renewables, grew faster in Minnesota than the rest of the Midwest.
Minnesota even moved up in the rankings of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) state energy efficiency scorecard this year – leading the entire Midwest, and coming in number 8 out of all 50 states.
Minnesota is a shining example to other states of how they too can have a cleaner, stronger, more reliable energy economy. As other states move toward clean energy, Minnesotans will be able to proudly say, “We helped lead the way.”
To put it simply, clean energy is benefiting Minnesota in a variety of ways. While it may not be as obvious as winters that last 9 months, our clean energy economy is working hard for Minnesotans and deserves to be on the list of Minnesota points of pride.
Guest blog post by Meghan Kimmel, President of Portico Healthnet
Portico Healthnet wants to thank our Leadership Saint Paul (LSP) service group, which has been instrumental in helping plan and execute our fundraising event, Cocktails for Coverage. This event will be a networking and social gathering for community leaders committed to health coverage access for underserved communities. Please join us for this fun evening, and see the value of LSP service groups in action!
Cocktails for Coverage comes at a critical time for health care access. Despite reaching a record low in 2015, the uninsurance rate in Minnesota is on the rise; about 349,000 Minnesotans currently lack health insurance. The highest rates of uninsured are among the very people Portico serves: low‐income people, people of color, immigrants, and people with limited education. The barriers for those remaining uninsured are persistent and complex.
Portico offers health care enrollment and navigation services to all Minnesotans, regardless of income or immigration status. Our multi-lingual, culturally competent staff connect our communities’ most vulnerable people to the health services and resources they need.
We are grateful to the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce for the opportunity to work with leaders from our community. We hope to see you at this year’s Cocktails for Coverage!
Meghan Kimmel, President
Cocktails for Coverage
Date: Thursday, October 4th
Time: 5:30 – 7:30 pm; 6:00 pm program
Venue: James J. Hill Center, 80 W 4th St. Saint Paul. MN
Get your tickets here:
Taking green initiatives is not only being environmentally conscious but can also provide cost savings long term. Simple steps can become lifelong practices that help improve your office and environment. Below are some favorite tips and tricks to “green” your office space. Let us know your favorites and if you have more ideas to add.
Making Your Office Supplies Last Longer
Switch your plastic highlighters to pencil highlighters. Yes, they do exist! You no longer have to worry about them drying out. Once you come down to the end of the pencil highlighter you can compost them.
Paper and Filing Folders
No more space for filing folders in your file drawer? Here are a few things you can do to save space and paper:
Invest in a bleeding ink pen. They are way classier than your plastic pens. You can avoid hoarding cup loads of pens now.
Before purchasing a new piece of office furniture, think of ways to reduce the waste and cost of a new one. Is there anything online you can haul for free or at a reduced price? Office furniture is often listed online at sites like Craiglist, OfferUp, and Facebook Marketplace. You’ll be surprised how many things you can get from the community for free if you just search. Reach out to other businesses that are renovating and you might be able to snag a deal. Or, you can reupholster or refinish your old furniture with new paint and hardware.
What to do with all of the business cards? Download an app that will store all of your business cards on your smart phone or tablet. It’s a great way to save everything digitally. If you can’t let them go because of a sentimental attachment you have, get a business card organizer binder or just keep the ones you know you’ll need for later in a box, or display them in a decorative glass vase.
Bring in Green Plants
There are a variety of office and desk plants you can get that are low maintenance. Succulents, cacti, bamboos, and spider plants are good examples. Research has shown that plants stimulate your mind as well as contribute oxygen to your environment.
Green Kitchen Suggestions
Use real mugs, silverware, plates, and bowls. Cleaning up doesn’t take much longer than throwing out paper utensils and you can use the walk to the sink as a break from your desk.
Did you know garbage companies charge business’ trash based on weight? There are many things you can recycle before it goes into the trash. So the less you trash you have, the more money you save on your garbage bill. Imagine at the end of the year how much you can save. That money you budgeted for trash can go towards other projects at your workplace.
Make sure there are labeled and colored recycling bins throughout the office space: each cubicle should have their own bin, 2 bins by the printer, one in the kitchen or lounge, one in each meeting room, and one in the lobby/waiting area. If your workplace needs help purchasing materials and supplies for better recycling, apply for grants like BizRecycling offered in Ramsey and Washington Counties. Connect with your local county to see if they have grants to help with recycling.
Recycling isn’t limited to plastic bottles, glass, and paper. You can apply that to organics as well. Coffee beans, tea bags, leftover food, banana and orange peels can all go into organics recycling where they are either composted or delivered to hog farms.
Check out BizRecycling if your workplace is on route or wants to become a green office!
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.