We all want to live a dignified life with the people we love most. That means that all of us, at some point in life, must take time away from work to care for ourselves or our loved ones. This year, Minnesota has a historic opportunity to pass a robust and comprehensive Paid Family and Medical Leave program to ensure that all Minnesotans, regardless of how much money they make, can take paid time off to care for themselves and their families.
For the past few months, Minnesota’s coalition for Paid Family & Medical Leave has organized partners to keep up the drumbeat for this life-changing policy throughout the state’s 2023 legislative session with a themed calendar, in which partners own and drive communications and advocacy work each week.
This week, Local Progress is aptly driving “Local Government Week” because we firmly believe in the strong connection between local government and community needs. We talked to Local Progress Minnesota (LPMN) members across the state to get their perspective on the proposed Paid Family and Medical Leave program, and see what they’re hearing directly from their communities about it.
Jillia Pessenda, Local Progress Minnesota Chapter Manager, grounded us in why it’s so important to hear from local voices at key moments like these. “When we’re talking about an issue like Paid Family and Medical Leave that so deeply impacts our communities, it’s critical that we ask our local electeds what they are hearing on the ground,” Jillia said. “We know this policy is effective, but our local electeds across the state are telling us it’s popular as well. Now, it’s time for Minnesota to follow the lead of the 11 other states plus D.C. that have already passed this life-changing policy.”
Here’s what we heard from our Local Progress Minnesota members on the ground:
“Public school employees deserve the opportunity to care for themselves and their loved ones without the stress of wage loss. A statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave program will help school districts recruit and retain excellent public school employees who reflect the diversity of our students. Now is the time to adopt a “yes and” approach by fully funding our public schools and protecting our valued staff.” – Jen Westmoreland, Chair, Hopkins School Board
“As I consider the proposed Paid Family and Medical Leave bill, I can’t help but think of the birth of my own children. I was hospitalized with life-threatening complications post-delivery, and my babies were in neonatal intensive care. And yet, as harrowing as that time was, we were lucky that we didn’t reach the point of having to choose between taking care of my family’s medical needs and remaining employed. Many Minnesotans are unfairly forced to make such choices.” – Dr. Kimberly Wilburn, at-large Minnetonka City Councilmember
“I am a School Board Member in St. Paul, but more importantly, I am the husband of a wonderful public school teacher. We are expecting our first child in April. My wife currently has no paid parental leave, so she will have to take unpaid leave, losing both income and her employer’s health insurance contribution. Having a child shouldn’t be this hard. Our educators are the people that we trust most to care for our children, but we don’t give them the time they need to be with their own children when they’re born.” – Uriah Ward, St. Paul School Board Member
“As a councilmember, I know all too well that local government is the closest to communities. My community here in Minneapolis has told me time and time again that they cannot keep choosing between providing critical caregiving responsibilities and paying rent, keeping the lights on, or feeding their families. It is long past time to pass statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave.” – Elliott Payne, Minneapolis City Councilmember
“Every day, our public school employees work tirelessly to ensure that the next generation has the tools they need to thrive. Meanwhile, we aren’t giving our public school employees the tools they need to thrive. Minnesota must pass a statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave program immediately. The success of the next generation depends on it.” – Thomas Brooks, Osseo School Board Member
“As a Councilwoman, I support our thousands of city employees, who have taken on extraordinary frontline work to care for our residents – keeping libraries open, caring for our children, keeping our water safe to drink, and so much more. St. Paul would only be stronger and better able to meet its residents’ needs if our employees have access to Paid Family and Medical Leave.” – Mitra Jalali, St. Paul City Councilmember
“Our county jobs are tough, and losing employees is hard on our budgets, our services, and our morale. To attract and retain employees, we need to give them the pay, benefits, and dignity they deserve. It’s good economics. It’s also the right thing to do.” – Ashley Grimm, St. Louis County Commissioner
For more information on why LPMN so strongly supports this bill, check out this letter our LPMN Organizing Committee members sent to the Minnesota Legislature to urge them to pass this life-changing legislation.
If you are a local elected official who wants to take action, please sign on to these letters organized by our coalition partners: