Duluth Earned Sick & Safe Time Task Force Opens Conversation

An ongoing debate over whether the city of Duluth should mandate paid sick leave is moving forward with the city council-appointed task force hearing from groups that would be impacted by earned sick and safe time. 

The task force is three months into a year-long process studying the issue, and after gathering background, they’re opening up the conversation to the community. 

Dozens from the Northland Human Resource Association filled a meeting room Tuesday afternoon. Task Force member Arik Forsman said that’s evidence the debate matters. 

“It’s a topic that inspires a lot of passion on both sides, there’s good arguments to be made on both sides,” Forsman said. “We are just so happy to see all these people here.”

An earned sick and safe time benefit would cover being absent from work due to either illness or critical safety issues, including domestic violence. Local human resources professions are uniquely invested in what a citywide policy would look like. 

“These are the people that are administering these plans, it’s a great opportunity to learn more,” Patricia Stolee with the Northland Human Resources Association said. “We really wanted to educate the community about some of the implications — what are the benefits but what are the implications for the employers.” 

Advocates who want to bring a policy mandate to Duluth said that right now, five out of six people in the lowest income bracket don’t have access to earned sick and safe time. That’s people making less than $35,000 a year.

“The people that actually need to have a paid day off the most are the folks that don’t have access,” Shawnu Ksicinski said. “It’s typically occupations that women and folks of color and indigenous folks in our community hold, so then we’re looking at issues of racial and gender equity in our community.”

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