Flanked by families and organizations with Minnesotans for Paid Family and Medical Leave (MPFML), Tuesday lead bill authors, Rep. Laurie Halverson in the House and Sen. Susan Kent in the Senate as well as Speaker of the House, Melissa Hortman unveiled the Paid Family and Medical Leave policy.
“Seeing the first smile of a newborn baby; holding hands at the hospital with a sick family member; comforting loved ones at the end of life; being able to heal and get well -- these are all things every single family in Minnesota deserves without fear of losing income,” said Bharti Wahi, the executive director of Children's Defense Fund–Minnesota. “Yet, sadly, only 13% of Minnesota workers currently have paid family and medical leave through their employers and there are disparities in access with differences by race and ethnicity, earnings levels, and work schedules.”
This paid time to care policy would allow all workers up to 12 paid weeks off to take care of family members and up to 12 paid weeks for long term medical care, including giving birth. The wage compensation would be partial and on a sliding scale so that those who make less, still have enough to thrive.
The legislation would not only alleviate the disparities across race and class, but also among small businesses that are disproportionately impacted by not having a statewide paid time to care program.
Sarah Piepenberg, owner of Vinaigrette - boutique stores that sell different oils and vinegars in Excelsior and Minneapolis described an aging employee who broke both her arms and needed extended time off to heal. “She had no idea how she was going to pay her rent or for her food,” Sarah recalls. “We believe in giving paid leave to our employees because it’s the right thing to do. Unfortunately, because we don’t have paid time to care implemented in Minnesota, I had to miss a payment on my home so that I could still pay my employee and cover her missed work. With this policy in place, all this financial stress could have been avoided and all of us would have benefitted.”
Legislators described the importance of the legislation.
“There is no reason that this shouldn’t be a tremendous bipartisan win for the state,” said Senate bill author, Sen. Kent. “It’s good for families and would be such a benefit, regardless of where you are on the political aisle.” Kent says that her republican colleagues have great interest in this bill and are garnering more every time their questions are answered on the specifics.
“All Minnesotans deserve to be successful,” House Speaker Hortman exclaimed. “We’ve heard from so many families who are choosing between caring for a loved one and earning a paycheck. Other states have done this. In Minnesota, we need to show leadership to move forward. From a budget standpoint, there's a great case for it, there's a business case for it and there's a moral case for it.”
Leaders from MPFML expressed a sense of unequivocal support for the legislation.
“The unpaid care provided by Minnesota’s family caregivers saves our state $7.8 billion each year,” said Kate Schaefers, AARP Minnesota Volunteer State President. “Family caregivers are the backbone of our long-term care system – but it often comes at a cost to the family caregiver. As the population ages, more working caregivers will need to take time away from work to care for their loved ones. Paid family and medical leave policies provides them with much needed economic security, allowing them to stay in the workforce. This benefits our employers who desperately need workers, and it makes fiscal sense for Minnesota.”
While many union members already have paid leave in their contracts to care for parents or bond with new children; Minnesota’s Labor movement is proud to support this legislation, because we believe every worker should have this same freedom," said Bill McCarthy, Minnesota AFL-CIO President. “We have made paid family and medical leave one of our top priorities this legislative session.We are urging union members to contact their legislators in support of this bill – and we will continue to do so until it reaches Governor Walz’s desk.”
“This is a common-sense solution to the crisis that many of our families are experiencing,” Doran Schrantz, Executive Director of ISAIAH. “ISAIAH and our partners in MPFML have been working on this issue for five years. The time is now.”