Working people plan big push for paid family leave next year

Miguel Lindgren, a state employee and member of MAPE, describe how valuable paid family leave – which state employees won in contract negotiations two years ago – in the process of adopting a child from Colombia last September.

Supporters of paid family and medical leave launched a lobbying push at the Capitol today, calling on state lawmakers to pass legislation next year expanding the benefit to all Minnesota workers.

“It’s simple, it’s popular and it’s the right thing to do,” Pastor Corinne Freedman Ellis of Macalester Plymouth United Church in St. Paul said during a press conference at the Capitol, surrounded by fellow clergy, working people, retirees and business owners.

Ellis is a leader in the faith-based advocacy group ISAIAH, one of 25 local organizations leading the Minnesotans for Paid Family Leave campaign. Eight unions are on board, and the state’s largest labor federation, the Minnesota AFL-CIO, is a campaign co-chair.

The groups propose creating a statewide insurance pool that would cover the cost of replacement wages for workers who take time off for the birth or adoption of a child, or to be with an ailing family member. Workers would be eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave, with benefits ranging from 55 to 80 percent of their typical wages.

To build up the insurance pool, employees and employers would make mandatory contributions, similar to payroll deductions for health insurance or workers’ compensation. The median worker would pay an estimated $1.75 per week into the fund.

Similar policies are on the books in eight states, and two powerful lawmakers in Minnesota – Lt. Gov.-elect Peggy Flanagan and Rep. Melissa Hortman, the next Speaker of the House – have expressed support for making Minnesota the ninth.

The policy enjoys support among voters, too. A recent Pew poll found 84 percent of Americans back paid family and medical leave, but only 14 percent of U.S. employees have access to the benefit.

Jason Rathe, who owns a landscaping business in Minneapolis with over 20 employees, called the coalition’s proposal a win-win for working people and business owners.

“I really believe paid family leave is important to businesses because it creates a level playing field,” Rathe said. “It allows our employees and ourselves to do the things that are important.”

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