Minnesotans need paid family and medical leave

In a virtual press conference held earlier this week, legislators, small business owners, and workers came together in a call to action to create a statewide paid family and medical leave policy.

Currently, hundreds of thousands of working Minnesotans are unable to take paid leave to care for a family member when they get sick or to care for a new baby. This lack of care disproportionately affects women and communities of color in the state— forcing many to choose between caring for their loved ones and getting a paycheck. Throughout the public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of this coverage has only made these challenges worse for workers across the state.

During the press conference, workers shared their stories about the sacrifices they have been forced to make without access to PFML and small business owners expressed their frustration at not being able to compete with larger businesses that can afford these and other family-friendly policies. Under a statewide program, low-income workers and small businesses would both benefit.

The legislation would require small businesses and employees to pay a small premium to create a fund that would provide the leave for workers— similar to the model that exists for how the state’s unemployment insurance works. People enrolled in the program would be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave to an illness, pregnancy, or to care for a newborn or other family members.

While this legislation has secured hearings in the DFL-led House of Representatives, the Republican-controlled Senate has refused to even hear the bill. While Republicans have criticized the proposal as a one size fits all government program that would hurt businesses, they had no hesitation to support legislation providing $2.7 billion for the state’s unemployment insurance fund, which also requires businesses and workers to pay a small premium that provides benefits to workers.