State Employees Vote on Paid Parental Leave

Expecting mom Bridget Grabowski (Local 744) votes in favor of paid parental leave for state workers. She's a clerical worker at the Veterans Home in Minneapolis.
Expecting mom Bridget Grabowski (Local 744) votes in favor of paid parental leave for state workers. She's a clerical worker at the Veterans Home in Minneapolis.

AFSCME members who are state workers are voting Wednesday and Thursday on whether to approve a measure that would provide paid parental leave.

The vote started Tuesday at sites around the state. If the memorandum of understanding passes, it would give parents – fathers and mothers - six weeks of paid leave to bond with their newborn and adopted children.

Currently, state workers get no paid parental leave. They must take sick time or unpaid Family and Medical Leave.

Minneapolis Veterans Home worker Bridget Grabowski of AFSCME Local 744 is expecting her first child. When she heard about paid parental leave, her first thought was it’s “way to good to be true. I’m ecstatic.”

“It’s hard for families to make it work if they don’t have a dual income,” she says.  “The first few weeks is a crucial period of time for a mom and baby, a family and a baby to bond and make sure they have that secure feeling between them.”

Having paid parental leave would save workers and their families an average of $6,200 in lost time. It would give women time to recover after giving birth. The additional time is also important because many childcare facilities won’t accept babies younger than six weeks old. If both parents are state workers, they’d both qualify for leave.

Local 744 member Lawrence Podritz, whose children are now 16, 19 and 25, wishes he had the benefit when they were born.

“It would have been more bonding time,” Podritz says. “A week later, off they go into daycare.” He says his wife had to exhaust her sick leave to have a few weeks with their children.

Having paid parental leave would benefit the state, too, making it easier to recruit and retain young workers as Baby Boomers retire.

“I’m not a parent, but I believe all parents should be able to take time to bond with their children regardless if they’re newborn or adopted, mother and father,” says Kim Chapman, president of Local 744. “Everybody’s got to make due. I’m sure it’s a struggle with new parents, trying to find daycare.”

If AFSCME members ratify the measure, the Subcommittee on Employee Relations can give it interim approval. Assuming that happens, the contract would be put into place on that interim basis, and then need final approval from the state Legislature.

Details about the paid parental leave package can be found in our FAQ.