Advocates stage last-ditch rally for paid family leave

Sen. Katie Sieben of Newport, a lead propoent of paid family leave, leads a rally outside the Capitol.

Sen. Katie Sieben of Newport, a lead propoent of paid family leave, leads a rally outside the Capitol.

With fiery speeches and foam “No. 1” fingers, advocates of paid family leave rallied outside the Minnesota Capitol today, calling on House Republicans to take up the issue, which Gov. Mark Dayton called “a moral responsibility.”

Earlier this month, the DFL-controlled Senate approved a measure designed to prevent workers from being forced to choose between paying their bills and providing care for a newborn child or ailing family member.

But the bill hasn’t garnered a single committee hearing in the House, and an aide to Speaker Kurt Daudt told clergy members, who sent a delegation to the Crown Republican’s offices after the rally, that it was not among the speaker’s priorities in negotiations to close the session.

Bill McCarthy, president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, urged Daudt to reconsider.

“Now’s the time for the House majority to stand with working families and support this legislation,” McCarthy said. “Now is the time to act.”

The Senate bill, supported by a coalition of labor, faith and community groups, would provide Minnesotans who miss work after the birth of a child or during a family member’s extended illness with partial replacement wages for up to 12 weeks. It’s funded by a small tax on workers and employers.

web.PaidFamLeave-fingerSenate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, a DFLer from Cook, promised that if House Republicans fail to act on paid family leave this year, “the DFL Senate will be back next year” to pass the bill again.

But that was little consolation to Morgan Searcy of Northfield. Searcy, whose 41-year-old mother is gradually losing vision, will soon face a choice between going to work and helping her mother transition to life without sight.

The Senate bill’s 12 weeks of paid leave “would be enough for me to help my mom, to figure things out,” Searcy said. “It would be heaven-sent if this bill passed this year.”

It’s estimated only 13 percent of Minnesota workers have access to paid-family-leave benefits.

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