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Preemption of local labor ordinances passed by House

During a March 2 debate, Rep. Pat Garofalo speaks on his bill, HF600, which would prohibit local governments from adopting or enforcing certain employment regulations. Photo by Paul Battaglia
During a March 2 debate, Rep. Pat Garofalo speaks on his bill, HF600, which would prohibit local governments from adopting or enforcing certain employment regulations. Photo by Paul Battaglia

After more than four hours of debate, the House voted 76-53 late Thursday to preempt local governments from enacting ordinances requiring private employers to meet certain labor policies.

Sponsored by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), HF600 would retroactively rescind any such local laws adopted on or after Jan. 1, 2016, including ordinances in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

“This law simply clarifies what has been state labor policy for over 100 years," he said. He warned that without the legislation, some cities might enact local ordinances unfavorable to workers.

WATCH The House debate on HF600

The bill, which now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) is the sponsor, would prohibit local . governments from adopting or enforcing four types of regulations:

  • paying minimum wage rates higher than the state minimum wage;
  • requiring a private employer to offer paid or unpaid leave;
  • giving advance notice about work schedules; or
  • providing particular benefits, employment terms or working conditions.

The bill would not limit local governments’ ability to impose labor policies with respect to their own workforces, or to require such policies of employers with whom they contract or to whom they provide financial assistance.

Bethany Winkels, field and member development director with the Minnesota AFL-CIO, leads protesters in a chant against HF600 before the House debated the bill Thursday. Photo by Paul Battaglia

“Don’t take away what’s been organized and fought for,” said Rep. Erin Maye Quade (DFL-Apple Valley), while recalling her own years working in retail at Target.

On its path to the House Floor, HF600 drew dozens of testifiers to committee hearings, and on Thursday it drew crowds of bill opponents who rallied in Capitol hallways.  

DFLers, citing that public interest, spoke against the bill. Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul) called the bill “the voice of corporations.” Rep. Mike Sundin (DFL-Esko) said it is an “affront to workers.”

Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia) said some business owners have told him they don’t want to be in cities with such ordinances because such regulations negatively affect their business and can prevent them from bringing on more employees.

“If there is no employer, there is no employee,” noted Rep. Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont).

Five amendments that would have put into state law provisions for sick and safe leave, health insurance, work scheduling notice, wage-theft penalties and paid family leave were withdrawn after debate.

Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls), who sponsors a related bill titled the Working Parents Act, offered an amendment on wage theft and paid family leave. He said HF600 is “not about uniform labor standards. It’s about people that don’t want to pass laws to help working people at the state or local level.”

A different kind of amendment, offered somewhat tongue-in-cheek by Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park), would have radically altered government in Minnesota: “The legislature shall exercise all powers and duties of home rule charter and statutory cities through specific legislation enacted into law.”

Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul) introduced a bill on work scheduling in 2015. “Increased predictability can lead to more stability in our community,” she said.

Along those lines, Rep. David Bly (DFL-Northfield) offered an amendment requiring 21 days’ notice before a work schedule takes effect.

Republicans quizzed their DFL colleagues about how their amendments would affect funeral parlors, emergency response teams, or workers at print shops that get last-minute rush jobs.  

“I don’t think you realize how devastating your amendment would be to thousands of businesses across the state,” said Rep. Jim Knoblach (R-St. Cloud).

Thissen singled out the bill’s retroactivity clause as its “very worst part” because it voids ordinances citizens worked hard to get passed. “Working people actually winning at the local level, that scares people desperately.”  

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