Entries Tagged 'Employment' ↓

Forward Sioux Falls swindles city council into a $2 million/5-year contract


Unlike other non-profits in Sioux Falls, Forward Sioux Falls set a precedent last night by getting the city council (Item #56) to approve a 5 year contract (instead of year to year) for workforce development and the management of siouxfallshasjobs.org.

But not without opposition.

Erpenbach pulled her typical ‘skeptical’ routine at the beginning of the discussion, than voted for it anyway. Which was too bad, because she had a great argument about signing off on a 5-year contract that would affect future councils. She must have forgotten what she was voting on, someone should have ‘REMINDED’ her.

Not only did Stehly, Starr and Neitzert vote against the contract, Greg added that if he had an opportunity he would ‘Defund’ the jobs site. I couldn’t agree more. Tax payers shouldn’t be subsidizing a employment site when there are many successful job sites in the private sector, that, and our low unemployment rate. This is a ruse to bilk tax payers into paying for classified employment ads for private industry, while doing nothing to address our real issue in Sioux Falls, WAGES!

Want to move Sioux Falls FORWARD, use the money to bring in industry that wants to pay a living wage.

Best & Worst Full-Time employers in Sioux Falls

As I was going through this past weekend’s edition of the Argus Leader I came across their yearly publication ‘Welcome’.

With employment I found some interesting numbers. Obviously, the fewer full-time staff you have, the less benefits you have to pay out, though I will admit, Hy-Vee does offer 401K, bonuses and healthcare to part-time employees. Whether they take it or not is another story.

Smithfield was the best claiming of their 3,400 employees ALL were full-time. BRAVO!

Hy-Vee was dead, dead, dead, last of their 3,347 employees only 719 were full-time (which is probably mostly management and supervisors running an army of teenagers and retirees). No wonder Milky Way can’t find anyone to work for him.

The city doesn’t fair well either, of their 1,585 employees, only 1,256 were full-time, and I heard half of them worked in the engineering department 🙂

But my favorite was the vagueness and secrecy of Walmart. They said they had 1,500 employees in Sioux Falls and that (a majority were full time). They also stated they love the environment and that 99% of their products come from the United States 🙂

The biggest discrimination issue in the Sioux Falls workforce; Wage Discrimination

Sometimes I just shake my head when government, whether that is National, State or Local, fiddle around with emotional topics that have nothing to do with what is on hand.

Our Mayor and City council have barked about workforce development for years now, so what major steps have they made? We got a fancy website and some billboards of our mayor in Minneapolis, oh, and we are considering an ordinance to not to discriminate against transgender peeps.

Hey, as short, fat German, I can tell you all about discrimination. It happens. I will also say I voted for and support city policy when it comes to public employees not being discriminated against when it comes to sex identification. When dealing with public employees and tax money, it can be a very sticky situation. The voters, city attorney’s office and the charter revision commission made the right decision.

As for the part that was withdrawn this week, not sure we need to step off that ledge (forcing the policy onto private employers and landlords). First off, we are a right to work state, I see some interference with those laws. I also see issues with housing*.

Whatever happened to not hiring someone because they aren’t qualified? Is that discrimination? I just see a huge can of worms we are opening by adding another layer of EOC regs with private employers. The worst part is that it may not hold up in court since this is just simply a city ordinance and not state law or federal law. And at the end of the day, are we really making employment better in Sioux Falls?

No matter how you feel about the debate, I ponder the bigger question? What are our local leaders doing to actually get good employment for our residents no matter their race, gender or sexual orientation? I could care less about religious freedom, bathroom freedom and sexual freedom.

This is a job or career, not a reality TV show.

What are our city leaders doing about female pay lagging male pay? Or management promotions? How about the minimum wage? Want to present real change through city charter and ordinance? Make employers pay a $10 minimum wage within the city limit. Require all new businesses that come to Sioux Falls to sign a promise that they will pay a living wage of at least $16 an hour for full-time work. Require employers to have a portion of their staff to be full time.

I could care less where you pee, who you sleep with, or what you choose to wear for clothing. Free country, free expression. We can have the church/bathroom/transgender debate discussion all we want, but let’s face it Sioux Falls, the real discrimination in our town is WAGE discrimination.

I ask our city council and mayor, what do you plan to do about it?

*The rumor going around is that the city was promised more HUD/Federal monies if they implemented a city ordinance to not to discriminate against LGBT peeps/transgender.


Why can’t the hospitality industry in Sioux Falls retain good workers? Greed.


You get what you pay for

I will say it, the honeymoon is over. I knew there would come a day that we couldn’t keep building a restaurant on every street corner of this town and expect them to make a profit and last. Some would blame a worker shortage on the problem, I blame something else, a wage shortage.

It used to be easy to gather a group of unexperienced employees to run a restaurant in Sioux Falls, make huge profits, and leave those workers behind. Not anymore. There needs to be a change in philosophy, something I have often suggested in public employees. Hire quality employees, and pay them well, and they will do the work of 2-3 unexperienced employees that you pay half the wage to.

Don’t believe me? Well, I may not have owned a restaurant in my lifetime, but I have been working in them since I was 17 years old (almost 27 years). Over those years I have done it all, dishwasher, pasta maker, bus boy, line cook, fry cook, host and server. I even worked as a maintenance man. I’ve seen a lot, but the one thing that has always been a constant is that good employees who are paid well in the industry stick around, are usually never late and have great attendance. Money may not be the secret to happiness, but working in a customer service industry like food service is very demanding, but can be very rewarding if you are willing to do the job right.

About 5 years ago when I was in between full-time employment in the printing industry, I worked full-time as a server for 2 years. It wasn’t pleasant. It wasn’t the duties of the job that were hard, it was the way the employer treated me (a corporate franchise). Though I was the top earning hourly tipped out server and had $125K a year in sales, not only did my employer not give me a raise, they actually took almost 20% of my tips in a thing they call ‘tip share’. It is a scam that has been getting legal challenges across the country that forces tipped employees to subsidize non-tipped employees (like hosts, bussers and cooks). It saves these companies millions in wages, while killing the morality of their tipped employees who ironically are the front line of customer service for their business. Wouldn’t you want to be paying these people the best instead of robbing them of 20% of their income a year? It goes back to a change in philosophy.

The days where restaurants in Sioux Falls and across the nation can get away with poor pay, virtually no benefits and quite frankly abuse is coming to a close.

My advice is simple to anyone who wants to run a successful restaurant.

• Target your marketing to the customer base you want. Not only are good employees valuable, but so are good customers.

• Treat your employees like you would treat your customers. This one is important. Over the years I have seen good workers with good intentions get thrown under the bus because of a bad customer. In fact I quit my last serving job because of it. I don’t believe in the mantra that the ‘customer is always right’. In fact, 90% of the time, they are completely wrong. When I have been asked what to do with a bad customer, my answer is the same. Apologize to them, thank them for trying your place out, refund their money fully, then ask them to NOT return. I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen good employees get fired because a restaurant owner wants to save a BAD customer. Think about how senseless that is? Not only are bad customers bad for your bottom line, they affect the morality of your employees, and whether you ask them to return or not, they won’t anyway, and they will still talk smack about you either way. Asking them to not return is the smartest move.

• Pay all of your employees well, but also hire quality (experienced) people. I’m not just talking about front of the house, but I am also talking about hosts and dishwashers. Putting your employees on an even keel is the best way to keep peace in an industry known for unrest. There is nothing more frustrating for experienced employees who work their tail off getting paid the same as slackers they always have to carry the water for. Trust me, I believe in the team mentality, but that whole team has to be strong. It’s like links on a chain. Don’t coddle the slackers and reward the hard workers.

• Give customers something they will come back for. This one is very simple, give good service, provide a great product, and have a great ambiance and do it 110% of the time. With the saturation of restaurants in town, let’s face it, their are only so many customers to go around. And if they have one or two bad experiences, they may never return. This goes to how you run your operation. You wouldn’t hire a fisherman to run a battleship and vice versa. I have often joked with people for years, “500 restaurants in Sioux Falls, but not 1 decent place to eat.” Think about that for just a moment. Could you name 4-5 restaurants you have eaten in Sioux Falls where the food and service has been consistent 90% percent of the time? I can’t. And eliminate the price point. If I am going to eat out, price is not a factor, if I get something good in return. Put value in what you are putting out there, that means valuing your employees along with your product.

• Trust your employees. This one is huge. Never take the word of a stranger (your customers) over your employees, unless it is blatant they are lying. We all have bad days, that doesn’t make them bad employees. But there should also be REAL consequences to employees who screw up, which brings me to favoritism and nepotism. I see this all to often in the industry, in Sioux Falls it is like the Black Plague. Treat all of your employees the same while on the clock. There is nothing wrong with management being friends with their employees, but keep your love fest for each other off the clock.

The restaurant industry in Sioux Falls is on the cusp of collapse, I really believe that. My last job certainly proved that. This saturation of bad food and service cannot last and can only be tackled by higher wages to better employees. The industry doesn’t want to admit it, but they know eventually they are going to have to change. Quality people are available to work in the industry in Sioux Falls, I have worked with many of them throughout the years, but with quality people has to come quality wages.

But this isn’t just up to the industry, the legislature and the city council need to make some changes to the laws on the books. Years ago a team of well intentioned restauranteurs made their way to Pierre to change how employees in the industry get paid. Those guys are about ready to retire, and you can probably guess who they are. They have made millions on the backs of their employees by suckering the state legislature over the years. And they have strong allies that need to be persuaded to make changes to, like the Retailers Association and the Chamber of Commerce who are consistently anti-hospitality worker.

Here’s some quick changes that could be made;

• Eliminate the tipped employee minimum wage. It should be identical to all minimum wage earners. A tip should be an ‘extra’ a server or bartender gets for good service, it shouldn’t be 90% of their overall wages. Tips are too volatile.

• Eliminate the ‘tip share’. Allow tipped employees to keep 100% of their tips.

• Pay your front of the house employees the same as the back of the house. Harmony is a good thing.

• Hire more full-time employees, provide them benefits and PTO. A consistent workforce equals a consistent product. Keep hiring low-wage, part-time alcoholic stoners and you reap what you sow. By law, require restaurants to have a certain percentage of their workforce to be full-time.

I know, I have worked in a lot of places, and I can truly admit, not every restaurant runs perfectly. But blatantly ignoring the 700 pound gorilla in the room will only doom the industry in Sioux Falls eventually.

Pay better and hire better employees. It really is that simple.

UPDATE: Is Mayor Huether using his ‘business acumen’ to hand out corporate like raises and salaries to his favorite directors?

Update: Here are the parts in the city charter that refer to pay discretion and directors, seems the mayor has a lot of control over the ‘salary steps’pay-discretion

Earlier in the year I was able to acquire the salary records for all of the city employees since 2010. All of my data comes from the city website either directly or indirectly. I possessed data for 2014-2015, while another South DaCola foot soldier who frequently downloads city information had the other records, and one of the years was supplied to me by a city official.

I was also able to get the information verified. When I provided it to a local news agency, they of course wanted to double check the information so they asked for the same data from the city finance office. We compared the files they provided and they matchup. There was some debate from the finance office that the information I acquired may be inaccurate because the city uses a different kind of accounting system now then what they used in 2010. This of course doesn’t change what people are being paid by any means, as was proven when we cross referenced the files.

As you will see by the list below of the closest directors, managers and assistants to the mayor, it’s good to keep a little brown on your nose if you want a little extra green in your wallet. While, I by no means, am opposed to raises for public employees, in no way do I think they deserve raises that are four times the COLA. In the private sector, especially in Sioux Falls, you would be hard pressed to see increases like these, especially when you take into account the kind of pension and benefits plan these public employees receive on top of their pay. There is also the argument of retention and lack of bonus pay for public employees.

Some say these large increases come from promotions or achieving goals, while that is a great argument in the private sector, I question if that should be the case in the public sector. Many of these managers DID not receive any promotions over the 4-5 year period and hold the same position. And most of the managers that did get a change, it usually was in name (title) only, essentially their job did not really change. It seems to me that employees are being rewarded for doing the mayor’s bidding (he signs off on the wage increases and salaries) instead of the work they are doing, or for that matter NOT DOING.

Take SIRE for instance. It was broken before Mayor Huether even took office, and with a new appointment in Central Services, and 5 years later, it still doesn’t work. It reminds me of what a former city employee said to me about the forestry manager a couple of weeks ago when we were discussing Project Trim, He said, “He works 80 hours a week trying to get out of work.”

Three managers, that you WILL not see listed below, Mike Cooper (Director of Planning), Jeff Schmitt and Kevin Smith received very small COLA like raises over the past 5 years. In fact, Kevin Smith quit this past year. You have to question why someone like Mike was only receiving small 2% raises while his peers were receiving large 10-12% every other year? What’s that saying about playing the reindeer games? Mike Cooper has been under a lot of pressure this past year due to his internal zoning and the Walmart hearings. He recently spent $30K for a study of a neighborhood that the neighborhood did not ask for. I will let you speculate whether or not Huether was rewarding his good soldiers with significant wage increases for doing his bidding or for performance, or a combination of both. Either way, the numbers don’t lie, a city management job looks like a pretty good gig, if you don’t mind the smell.

What is even more troubling is that you will not find these kind of salary increases in the hourly employees over the past five years. Those stayed stable at 2-3% a year, in fact in the SFPD several officers received NO increase in some years. Notice in the list below you will find NO ONE from the SFPD listed, not even the former chief of police, with one exception, the city attorney who is charge of advising them, KEITH ALLENSTEIN.

Here’s a chart showing the hourly rate increases over the same time period;





Kind of reminds you of Sioux Falls economic recovery after the recession

Wall Street Journal, “An Unfinished Riff: The New Orleans Economy Ten Years After Katrina,” by Leslie Eaton and Cameron McWhirter:  “In the years since the storm forced out about half the metropolitan area’s residents, the population has rebounded to 1.25 million people, 90% of its pre-Katrina level…But as the $135 billion rebuilding winds down, federal employment data reveal a local economy increasingly skewed to low-wage jobs, especially restaurant work, one of the few sectors now employing more people than before Katrina. Those jobs drag down average incomes, analysts say, widening the economic divide between whites, who are generally richer than before, and blacks, who aren’t.”

Should SF Firefighters get ‘Hazardous Duty Pay’ for their entire shift?


The graphic from this year’s budget proposal shows that of the fire department’s total $26.2 million dollar operating budget request, that $22.7 million of that is for wages and benefits, or approximately 86.4% of the total budget. Only 13.6% or $3.5 million goes toward buying or repairing equipment, paying for fuel or repair on trucks, or paying for utilities or minor repairs on the 11 fire stations. Some larger repairs could be in the capital budget.

If finance used a pie chart or bar graph it would look bad and be more obvious how much of the budget the wages are.

They managed to cut what they are requesting to buy in supplies, equipment, and repairs, so even though the employees are getting a 3% wage increase, the “other” operating request is down by $200,000, so the department’s overall request for 2016 is only up by 1.95%

I know it’s tough to point this out because whenever you pick on firefighters there is always public outcry about what they do and how much they risk their lives, but someone needs to start asking them about their call volume:

• It’s about 70% medical (EMS). Paramedics make a lot less money per year – ask any working for Paramedics Plus

• You wonder how many fires they respond to in a year, I think it averages around 300+. How many of those required hooking up a hydrant? (this means there was a large enough fire the
firefighters had to mask up and actually work as firefighters in smoke). It takes the waste paper basket fires and prank dog poop fires out of the statistics.

• You wonder how long the crews are out of the stations each day on calls? The crews work 24 hour shifts but probably average 3 calls per day. If you take false alarms into account, the average is probably under 20 minutes. So if you look at all the factors, the actual time spent is probably about 1 hour in 24 responding to fires (hazards). No doubt, I’m sure other work is being done – business inspections, yardwork, station cleaning, tours, etc., but is that the kind of work that requires “hazardous duty” pay?

Maybe some questions the city council should be asking during the budget hearings.

Credit Card Call Center to leave Boomtown

I wonder if the mayor will be holding a press conference? Because if they were hiring 750 people he would be there with bells on;

750 employees will be affected. The company says employees can apply for other jobs within the company or it will help employees find new jobs and will also offer severance packages.  At one time Capital One had 1,000 employees in the Sioux Falls.

And you thought the layoff at Raven was an issue, not sure how this will affect our unemployment rate? And how about our great education system and supposed work ethic in Sioux Falls and South Dakota, Capital One has a different view on that;

Capital One says its had too much turnover and a hard time filling open positions.

Two words: Shit Wages. I also know other call centers in town are NOT the most fun places to work at. I did hear a rumor a few years ago a major retailer based out of Minneapolis was going to build their card services division here and backed out. Why? Not enough people to fill the positions.

We can call this place a ‘Boomtown’ all we want, but let’s face it, we need to diversify the employment for the lower to middle income people, if this latest move by Capital One (who barely survived 4 years here) isn’t proof of that, I don’t know what is.

Should the City of Sioux Falls raise it’s minimum wage to $10 an hour

Commissioner Barth thinks so;

Under the Sioux Falls Charter Form of Government, the city can do anything not forbidden by state statute. Thus, Sioux Falls can and should raise the minimum wage within its municipal boundaries. There would be fewer families and kids depending on taxpayer and charitable assistance. Yes, it would cause a stir, but the free publicity would help send forth the word that “Sioux Falls has jobs” and that these jobs pay a living wage. Many employers are already paying $10 and up for entry-level-positions, so the effect on local employers would be minimal.

When Jeff first proposed this to me over a month ago, I kind of laughed to myself. But is it that far-fetched? I called Jeff the other day while driving past Mickey D’s? What did the marquee say? “Do you want to make $10 an hour?” WOW! Even the famous fast food joint is paying that as a starting wage in Sioux Falls. (for full disclosure I was making that much in 1989 at a McDonalds in Everett, WA as the summer night maintenance person – 25 years ago – and I got to wear some cool coveralls!).

It seems our city council has pulled up their boot straps lately. Wrangling in pool rates, a texting ban even free youth bus rides. Is it time for our legislative body to send a message to employers in this town? How about a message to Pierre? While we are quick to give away free things to the ‘poor kids’ how about giving them a ‘hand up’ instead.

I at least encourage the city council to look at the measure.

What kind of training is ‘Ovations’ temporary help getting?

After reading the Stormland TV story about the supposed patron of the Events Center that got drugged by a temp employee bartender, Detroit Lewis started asking a few questions, but not about the incident itself.

I have been wondering where ‘Ovations’ (the contractor the city uses for the Events Center that is also used at the Pentagon and Canaries Stadium for concessions) get’s their temp help AND what kind of training they receive, and if there is any liability of the city (the taxpayers) if one of these temps screw up.

So a couple of weeks ago I got tipped off of the temp agency being used by a very disgruntled temp. While I am NOT going to say who the temp agency is, let’s just say it wouldn’t be the first place you would think of when you are looking for people to prepare food and bartend. Let me be clear though, this agency places a lot of people for day labor on construction sites, etc., and that is wonderful. But when I found out they were being used for food service and hospitality, I got a little nervous, especially for someone who has worked in the industry on and off for 26 years.

My first issue was food safety and ADA training. According to the Ovations contract with the city training is provided;


Is everyone getting proper training? I hope city officials look into very closely.

The Washington Pavilion, with all it’s faults, I will admit when I worked there in the Great Hall, all of us had to go through CPR & ADA training, amongst other programs. Even the Part-Time, Part-timers had to go through it, as well as the volunteers. It wasn’t an option. I also never recall temps working there part-time (except for maybe show load ins for the stage shows).

One of the things we were promised at the Events Center was jobs. Not just construction and full-time jobs, but good part-time jobs. Now we are finding out instead of Ovations hiring permanent part-time help they seem to be just filling the cracks with temp workers anytime there is a big event (and hiding the tip jars).

To say I am surprised, well not really. But I am disappointed that yet again, we are receiving another broken promise about the Events Center due to the greed of a few.