Today, Minnesotans for Paid Family Leave, a statewide coalition of working families, faith communities, labor and nonprofit organizations, showed their support for the 2016 Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, legislation creating an insurance program to provide all Minnesota workers with a portion of their pay for up to 12 weeks for pregnancy and medical issues and 12 weeks for bonding with a new child or caring for a seriously-ill family member. Coalition members, legislative champions including bill authors state Senator Katie Sieben (DFL-Cottage Grove) and Representative Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia), along with a broad array of working Minnesotans, attended the event.
“Everyone has a story. When my daughters Clara and Alice were born, I needed to be there to care for each of them. Everyone needs Paid Family and Medical Leave,” said ISAIAH Executive Director and coalition co-chair, Doran Schrantz. “Minnesotans should be able to work and care for themselves and their families. Paid Family and Medical Leave would let them do both.”
“Minnesota needs a comprehensive, statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave program so new parents don’t feel conflicted about taking time away from work to bond with their new family member,” said Sieben. “Likewise, a leave program will allow family members to care for ill relatives or their own serious medical issues.”
“After the birth of my daughter, Siobhan, I was able to focus on caring for her and didn’t have to worry about where my next paycheck would come from,” said bill co-author, state Representative Peggy Flanagan (DFL-St. Louis Park). “We’re all caregivers, and we should all be able to take leave when we need it most.”
“Most Minnesota children have all parents in the workforce. A Paid Family and Medical Leave program would improve maternal and child health and increase paternal involvement in children’s lives,” added coalition co-chair and Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota’s Legislative Affairs and Communications Director, Jessica Anderson.
“I was fortunate to be able to take time to care for both of my grandfathers at the end of their lives. When we’re at our most vulnerable, we should be able to care for each other,” said Metsa, underscoring that the program would also support care for the state’s aging population.
Ninety-percent of individuals receiving long term care in their communities rely on unpaid care from family members. A PFML program could help elders to age in place, save on long-term care costs, and caregivers to stay in the workforce.
Research from other states with Paid Family and Medical Leave programs has also shown they benefit business by lowering turnover, boosting productivity, and enhancing morale. Paid leave programs can also help to make small businesses more competitive and appealing to a new generation of employees looking for basic benefits to support their families.
“If he needed a few weeks off for a family or medical reason we could not afford to lose him,” said small business owner, Todd Mikkelson, about his company’s employee. “But we also could not afford to pay him for his time off.” Operating under an insurance model, PFML programs help businesses provide benefits they couldn’t otherwise afford to offer on their own.
Sieben added that the program “must be available to all Minnesota workers, as it is in so many other countries.” She said “it is a most basic family value, and it’s time for our state laws to catch up to the reality of our modern workplaces.”
The United States is the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave, and 70 other countries require paid paternity leave as well. Only 13% of employees in the U.S. have access to full pay through their employers while on FMLA qualifying leaves. Only 40 percent of private industry workers have access to short-term disability insurance. Low-income (46%), part time (38%), Black (42%), Hispanic (39%), younger (39%), and less educated (38%) workers are much more likely to go without any pay. Only 60 percent of workers qualify for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act and those who do may be unable to take advantage of it because they can’t afford the loss of income.
“Having a new infant is a wondrous experience. Having a major illness is traumatic. We need to surround our loved ones with support and care, not stress and anxiety. It’s time that we come together to make sure we can take care of ourselves and our families,” concluded Schrantz.
Minnesotans for Paid Family Leave is co-chaired by
Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota, ISAIAH, and the Minnesota AFL-CIO
AARP | AFSCME Council 5 | Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota | the Coalition for Women’s Economic Security | Communications Workers of America State Council | Family Tree Clinic Gender Justice| Gray Panthers | ISAIAH | Jewish Community Action | Main St. Alliance | Minnesota AFL-CIO | MAPE | Minnesota AIDS Project | Minnesotans for a Fair Economy Neighborhoods Organizing for Change | Open Access Connections | OutFront Minnesota | River Valley Action | SEIU-Minnesota | Take Action-Minnesota | UFCW Local 1189