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Everyone deserves the freedom and financial flexibility provided by Paid Family and Medical Leave

Every year, thousands of Minnesotans are faced with a difficult dilemma: go to work and earn a living or stay at home to care for a new, aging, or sick family member. This impossible conundrum pits work against family, putting many Minnesotans in dire financial circumstances that unnecessarily strain both them and their communities.

During this last legislative session, Minnesota’s DFL-House passed a bill that could have alleviated the burden of affording at-home care. Unfortunately for families across Minnesota, Republicans let the bill die in the Senate. Once again, Republicans failed to grasp the importance of measures like Paid Family and Medical Leave, which would help establish a stable financial foundation for Minnesota workers currently struggling to balance earning an income and caring for their families.

Today, 59 percent of Minnesotans lack access to any sort of family or medical leave, and only about 15 percent of Minnesotans have access to ​paid family or medical leave through their employer. Important to remember is that most of us will one day be confronted by the choice between working a job and providing at-home care, and 66 percent of voters in the U.S. agree they would likely face severe financial difficulty if forced to take unpaid family or medical leave.


This issue clearly affects all Minnesotans. With the costs of medical, infant, and elder-care skyrocketing, a real chasm yawns between what families need and what they can afford. Minnesotans need and deserve paid family and medical leave, and the plain answer to this conundrum is a statewide program guaranteeing that Minnesota workers can take time off to care for themselves and their families while maintaining a portion of their income.

Ken Martin
Ken Martin
In response to this need, Gov. Tim Walz and DFL Rep. Laurie Halverson proposed The Paid Family & Medical Leave Act, a bill that outlined a viable paid-leave plan for Minnesota. Allowing for up to 12 weeks of paid leave with costs split evenly between employers and employees, workers would contribute an average of only $2 to $3 a week to fund the program. This bill would have allowed Minnesota workers to take crucial time off to bond with newly born or adopted children, to care for elderly family members, or to even take time caring for their own serious health issues without incurring detrimental financial ruin.

While the bill passed the DFL-controlled State House, it unfortunately came to a grinding halt when it faced GOP opposition in the State Senate. GOP Majority Leader Paul Gazelka failed to hold a vote for the bill on the Senate floor, citing funding concerns and a blanket refusal to sponsor any kind of state mandate. With Minnesota Republicans having repeatedly blocked similar paid-leave measures during the last three legislative sessions, these stonewalling tactics demonstrate that there is no priority amongst GOP leaders to pass a measure ensuring the financial stability of families facing medical- and family-care crises across the state.

The question now is this: If we couldn’t pass the Family and Medical Leave Act this last legislative session, a session at first defined by bipartisanship and unity, when will it pass? The answer, to be frank, is once DFLers control both the state House and state Senate. Luckily for Minnesotans who don’t want to face the agonizing choice between work and family, DFLers already control the state House; the state Senate is up for election in 2020.

We need to work together over the next year and a half to put folks in office who prioritize Minnesota families, folks who believe that every person deserves the freedom and financial flexibility provided by Paid Family and Medical Leave. No one should have to miss rent in order to afford care for a loved one or to spend critical time with a newborn child.

Ken Martin is chair of the DFL Party.

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 06/14/2019 - 09:48 pm.

    A new company with 2 employees might not be as inclined to support such a law, and no child is born without a few months notice (vacation/sick time), and certainly not everyone has children which leaves those folks disenfranchised from the policy. Perhaps a voluntary system where workers contribute 8-12 dollars a week to a pool at their workplace might be more fair, and not require government intervention.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/15/2019 - 10:25 am.

    “GOP Majority Leader Paul Gazelka failed to hold a vote for the bill on the Senate floor, citing funding concerns and a blanket refusal to sponsor any kind of state mandate.” That pretty much describes why most people vote republican, so yeah, thanks Paul

    • Submitted by Kenneth Harris on 06/16/2019 - 07:21 am.

      Until their own ox gets gored, then they see the benefit of compassionate legislation. Thanks for nothing, Paul.

  3. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/15/2019 - 11:57 am.

    All other Western countries manage to provide paid family leave and sick leave. I guess their business owners are smarter than the the American ones who claim that such things are “too burdensome” and “impossible.”

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 06/16/2019 - 12:40 am.

      And yet people from Mexico pour into the US even without paid family leave and sick leave. You’d think Americans would be fleeing South for such benefits, or maybe even North.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/16/2019 - 11:53 am.

        The point of America is to always make things better, not to rest on our laurels. Immigrants were pouring in in the 1870’s, but we improved our lot any way.

      • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/16/2019 - 02:27 pm.

        That is a disingenuous question.

        The people who are coming in from Mexico and Central America are mostly subsistence farmers. They wouldn’t be eligible for family leave anyway.

        It isn’t the people who work for the companies that offer family leave who risk their lives walking through the desert. They’re doing fine right where they are.

      • Submitted by Brian Gandt on 06/17/2019 - 11:39 am.

        Seriously? You don’t understand the difference between Mexico, and, say, Norway or Germany?!

  4. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 06/16/2019 - 11:54 am.

    We have what I’m told is the most fabulous wealth producing economy in the history of the world. But we can’t afford things lesser economies have.

    Go figure.

  5. Submitted by DENNIS SCHMINKE on 06/17/2019 - 12:01 am.

    Everyone understand, of course, that there is NO SUCH THING as a free lunch. These decisions do not occur in a vacuum, and there will be unintended consequences.

  6. Submitted by Pat Brady on 06/17/2019 - 10:00 am.

    The Sate Senate would not even bring this bill up for debate or consideration.
    Why are they afraid of discussion of this worthwhile policy and taking a up or down vote?
    Many working MN families struggle with care for their elderly parents, children with disabilities or their own health issues while working full time. Once all one’s vaction time and sick leave is used, time off under the Family Leave Law is upaid leave.
    Time to have a real discussion of real facts facing many working class families today in MN.
    Hopefully , after the 2020 election this will happen.

  7. Submitted by Tim Milner on 06/17/2019 - 03:48 pm.

    Ken,

    I am happy to continue to provide more no cost benefits to my employees. Can I also get you to include 2 more items in your bill?

    1 – That my customers have to agree to price increases that cover the initial and ongoing costs associated with the new no cost benefit that I will be required to provide.

    and

    2 – That the state creates a communication program to explain to my employees that their no cost added benefit is more beneficial to them than letting me give them a similar sized increase in their wage rate.

    If you cover that, I’m all in!!

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