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A Push for Sick Leave: “Everyone Benefits When Minnesota Benefits”

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015   

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A new push for earned sick leave could mean more employees get "Minnesota Benefits."

According to TakeAction Minnesota, 1 million state workers - four in 10 - can't take time off without risking their jobs or paychecks. The new Minnesota Benefits coalition wants legislators to change that.

An increasing number of families are living paycheck to paycheck, said Dan McGrath, executive director of TakeAction, who added that he thinks the whole state would benefit by helping them.

"No one wants someone who's preparing food to be ill. No one wants kids to have to stay home and take care of a younger brother or sister, so that mom can go off to work," he said. "You know, we all do better when we all do better."

A family often suffers if a parent has to stay home with a sick child. When Tiffany McDonald's son became ill, the Duluth mother said she was worried that the medicine he was given could interact badly with a prescription he was already taking. But she said caring for him cost her a good full-time job she had just managed to get.

"I was just starting off, and my son got sick, and I needed to take a few days off," she said. "I end up losing that job, because I couldn't do both - my family life and take care of my son, and work."

A bill in the Legislature would mandate earned sick leave to be used if a worker or family member is sick, or in cases of domestic violence. McGrath said businesses with more than 20 employees would have to let them earn up to nine days off a year. For companies with fewer employees, it would be up to five days a year. He said he sees the law as necessary, because too many jobs now come without benefits.

"The economy has changed," he said. "With both parents having to work additional shifts or odd hours, there's incredible stress on families. This is a policy that aims to help the economy keep up with the reality that families face."

One Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that food-service workers were responsible for half of all stomach flu virus transmissions. Critics of requiring employers to grant paid sick leave have said it would slow job creation, and that not all businesses can afford it.

More information is online at TakeActionMinnesota.org.


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