Over the past several years, cities across our state have stepped up for working families and ensured people can take the time they need to care for themselves and their loved ones. In our cities – St. Paul, Minneapolis and Duluth, we have passed earned sick and safe time. Now, it’s time for our state to do the same. As part of the governor’s budget, Minnesota legislators have a historic opportunity this legislative session to pass earned sick and safe time and help all Minnesota workers stay healthy. And this comes at a time when our federal American Rescue Plan funds can be used for this exact purpose.
The pandemic has made it crystal clear that all our health is connected. Yet, far too many families – particularly families of color – lack the support needed to care for their loved ones or themselves. Today, we hear far too many stories of workers who are forced to go to work despite being sick. We hear about far too many of our children who have to miss class to stay home with younger siblings because their parents don’t have access to paid sick days. We hear about Minnesotans who need to take care of elderly parents but are forced to make the impossible choice between leaving them alone and potentially losing their jobs.
Earned sick and safe time is a basic employment standard that allows workers to accrue up to 48 hours of paid time to care for themselves or a loved one. As we’ve seen in our cities, it helps ensure we meet the health and financial needs of Minnesotans when they or a loved one get sick, require care or need safety from domestic abuse, stalking or sexual assault. It means being able to take our parents to the doctor’s office to get test results … getting a COVID test. It means resting when illness strikes instead of working a double. It means picking up a sick child when the nurse’s office calls in the middle of our shift. Leaving our abuser to get safety or court protection.
We’ve also seen that our local paid sick leave ordinances have leveled the playing field across businesses by allowing small businesses to provide competitive benefits while supporting work with dignity, which is good for employee retention and good for business.
At the state level, our current employment standards do not reflect the reality that Minnesota families face every day. Hundreds of thousands of working people across the state don’t have paid sick leave – with women, people of color, and low-wage workers the least likely to have it; sometimes working for an employer for 5-plus years before they can take an hour of paid time off. That’s why statewide earned sick and safe time is a matter of equity for all working families.
It’s time for our state to follow the lead of Minnesota cities, 16 other states and D.C. and honor the hard work of Minnesotans everywhere. It’s the right thing to do.
Mitra Jalali is a St. Paul Councilmember. Jeremiah Ellison is a Minneapolis Councilmember. Azrin Awal is a Duluth City Councilmember. They are all members of Local Progress.