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Minnesota's a Step Closer to Paid Parental Leave

Minnesota could soon become the fifth state in the nation to offer paid family leave for public employees, now that one of the state's largest unions has approved the idea. (iStockphoto)
Minnesota could soon become the fifth state in the nation to offer paid family leave for public employees, now that one of the state's largest unions has approved the idea. (iStockphoto)
August 15, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota's public employees are one step closer to having paid parental leave. Members of one of the state's largest unions, the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees - or MAPE - voted in favor of providing six weeks of paid leave for new parents.

The proposal earned a resounding 90 percent approval from union members, with the union board approving the measure on August 12. Local 301 President Johanna Schussler said Minnesota could become a Midwestern leader on the issue - if it's approved by lawmakers this fall.

"We are the only industrialized nation that does not require paid maternity or paternity leave,” Schussler said. "And my hope is that, when Minnesota shows that it is leading on this, is that will lead to paid family leave for all working Minnesotans - and then, for everyone in the United States."

Currently, only three states have publicly-funded paid maternity leave: California, New Jersey and Rhode Island. However, some business groups have argued that mandated paid family leave could be costly for some employers, and difficult to manage.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, workers who have access to paid leave are healthier, use less sick time, spend less on health care and are more productive at work. Schussler said paid leave also could keep state agencies performing at their best.

"The state itself recognizes that this is something that they need in order to be a competitive employer and to attract and retain top-quality talent,” Schussler said.

Currently in Minnesota, new mothers and fathers have no paid parental leave, but they can use short-term disability or sick days. Once all state employee unions have voted to approve the measure, the state's Legislative Subcommittee on Employee Relations will have 30 days to vote on the paid-leave proposal.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN