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First Reading of ESST Ordinance at Duluth Council Meeting; Opinions Expressed

Updated: March 13, 2018 09:36 AM

Strong opinions about the proposed earned sick and safe ordinance came out in full force at Monday night's City Council Meeting.

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"All workers in Duluth and all over the country for that matter deserve this vital protection for employees," said a supporter for the Earned Sick and Safe Time Ordinance.

"A foreseeable consequence will be many of the people we are trying to help with the ESST will be left jobless in this industry," said Colin Flaherty, who was in opposition. 

Business leaders, employees and citizens expressed their support or opposition before the council is set to vote on it in the near future.

"The Chamber leadership looks forward to the day when the future city council will provide employers as much empathy and advocacy as you are providing employees," said David Ross.

Under the current ordinance, employers with 15 or more employees would have to provide one accrued Earned Sick and Safe Time hour for every 50 hours worked. Collective bargaining agreements would be exempt.

However, others feel more needs to be done.

"We feel this is an embarrassment - the Vision Duluth campaign - for workers and their families and we would like to advocate for more time to have additional amendments considered," said Katie Humphrey.

Monday, Councilor Zach Filipovich had planned to introduce an amendment that would address collective bargaining but put it on hold until the next meeting.

"I do not think the businesses or our business community is the enemy in this debate. I think poverty is the enemy in this debate, and that's what the council and advocates and businesses are trying to solve," said Filipovich.

Councilors Joel Sipress and Barb Russ also declined to propose their changes - which include lowering the number of employees from 15 or more to 10 or more.

Sipress said they need to "find a balance" for employers and employees.

Still, some councilors voiced their opinions on the ordinance like Councilor Jay Fosle - which sparked outrage among some people in the audience and other councilors.

"When I hear words like workers protection that tells me this is being pushed by unions and I heard the words an embarrassment, you know, people make choices in life. If you got pregnant at 19, you did that on your own," said Fosle during the meeting.

Shortly after, someone in the audience yelled 'Get Fosle, Out!'

Councilor Gary Anderson also responded to the comment.

"I find it deeply offensive that a councilor, and a colleague would make a judgment," said Anderson.

A second reading is scheduled for next council meeting - where those amendments are expected to be presented.

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