Minneapolis/ Retail & Industry
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Published on May 16, 2024
Minneapolis and Rutgers University Trailblaze National Model for Supporting I-BIPOC Small Business Labor ComplianceSource: Google Street View

In Minneapolis, a partnership between the city and Rutgers University is setting a national precedent for bolstering small business labor compliance, focusing on immigrant, Black, indigenous, and person of color (I-BIPOC) owned enterprises. Launched 18 months ago, the Small Business High-Road Labor Standards Intervention Pilot has been aiding more than 50 local businesses in grasping and adhering to labor laws.

At a recent event held at Lutunji’s Place Bakery, one of the businesses benefitting from the initiative, Mayor Jacob Frey praised the collaborative efforts. "When Minneapolis became the first in the nation to create this pilot program, we had one goal in mind: help our small businesses succeed,” Mayor Frey told the City. The program was a direct response to the dual challenges of civil unrest and the pandemic, which left many local businesses in a precarious position, struggling without adequate resources to handle bookkeeping and payroll complexities.

Implementing the program came with a rallying cry from Ward 11 Council Member Emily Koski, who helped secure a $125,000 slice of ARPA funding to improve business owners' livelihoods. Koski said, “The City’s Labor Standards Division, Rutgers, and I decided to try a new approach, one characterized by curiosity, creativity, and collaboration." Minneapolis’ initiative is the first in the United States to integrate technical business assistance with labor standards enforcement.

The success stories are in the spotlight, with Lutunji Abrahams of Lutunji’s Place Bakery affirming the impact of the provided assistance. "The training I received on QuickBooks Online, and bookkeeping was a game-changer," Abrahams shared with the City. Similarly, Mia Oi of Ichigo Tokyo-Crepes lauds the program's streamlining benefits. “I've been doing payroll myself, and this program helped set it up as autopilot, which has really helped save me time,” said Oi.

Rutgers’ Janice Fine, Director of the Workplace Justice Lab, underscored the nationwide attention the Minneapolis model is garnering. Other cities, she says, want to duplicate its success. “Minneapolis is leading the way -- bringing together small business support with labor standards compliance," Fine told the City. The aim now is to ensure that community bookkeepers become trusted advisors, constituting the core of Phase Two—the focus of ensuring ongoing labor compliance among small I/BIPOC businesses.

To know more about the project and its next steps, the Workplace Justice Lab has established a website dedicated to the Minneapolis project, while the full news conference is available for viewing on the City’s YouTube channel.