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Minneapolis Businesses Fight Back On Working Families Agenda

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The push back could be felt in Minneapolis City Hall on Mayor Betsy Hodges' controversial Working Families Agenda.

On Friday, about 75 business owners packed into a conference room to explain why the proposed ordinance is a bad idea and would hurt small business.

"I want you guys to know small business owners are good people. That's why we're here to fight for good reasons," Lina Goh, owner of Zen Box restaurant, said.

Coming just a day after a large and vocal crowd of workers rallied for improved benefits and pay, small business owners took their shot.

Their gathering at city hall was intended to explain to a handful of city council members that the proposed ordinance is the wrong approach to improving the lives of their workers.

"We're here to fight for good reasons," Goh said.

Goh and her husband run their restaurant on Washington Avenue. She fears the ordinance is driving a wedge between employers and employees.

"I love my employees as much and work as hard. When the dishwasher doesn't show up I become the dishwasher, I clean bathrooms and do everything too," she said.

At TreHus Builders in south Minneapolis, owner David Amundson says small businesses are still recovering from the 2008 recession. He calls this the wrong time to force costly new burdens on small businesses like his.

"Look, there is more work but everything has gone up. It's more expensive, health insurance, taxes and I have not raised my prices," Amundson said.

The ordinance would require paid sick time for all workers, and allow employees to bank it from year to year. There is also an attempt to address complaints of wage theft by some workers who believe they are being deprived their full compensation. Several speakers at Friday's gathering said they are unaware of any such problems and don't want to be blanketed by a few bad employers.

Said hardware store owner, Jim Welna, "nobody in the Midwest has done anything this broad and we need to proceed carefully and don't paint all of us with the broad brush that a few people are causing."

With the announced closures of three high profile Minneapolis restaurants in the past week, council president Barb Johnson cautions against moving too fast.

"We need to make sure we don't do things that are a disincentive to opening or expanding business in Minneapolis," Johnson said.

Council President Johnson expects more changes in the ordinance language before it gets to the full council for a vote. But she adds the city shouldn't lose sight of doing something to help workers on the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

A final public hearing on the proposed ordinance is scheduled for Nov. 4.

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