State Workers Win Paid Leave

(From left) MAPE Local 902 president Stephanie Meyer, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, and AFSCME Council 5 executive director Eliot Seide, secretary Mary Falk (in green) and president Judy Wahlberg celebrate paid parental leave for state workers.
(From left) MAPE Local 902 president Stephanie Meyer, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, and AFSCME Council 5 executive director Eliot Seide, secretary Mary Falk (in green) and president Judy Wahlberg celebrate paid parental leave for state workers.

Minnesota state employees in the Executive Branch can now take up to six weeks of paid parental leave, starting today.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith announced Wednesday that mothers and fathers, both biological and adoptive parents, can take the leave. It will save families an average of $6,200 when they need it most.

“Archie and I have two sons, and I was able to take time away from work to be with both of them when they were babies,” Smith says. “Becoming a mother was exciting, exhausting and sometimes overwhelming, and I don't know how we would have managed without this crucial time. Today’s announcement means that more than 35,000 Minnesota state employee families will have that same opportunity. This is an important step, but we need to keep working so access to family and medical leave isn't determined by the luck of where parents work.”

The Dayton-Smith administration worked closely with workers and their unions, including AFSCME and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, which took the lead in winning the benefit.

“The first weeks following birth are a critical time for families to bond and for infants to grow strong and healthy. It’s a time when new mothers and fathers most need financial security and job protection,” says AFSCME Council 5 secretary Mary Falk, who spoke at an event celebrating parental leave Wednesday. “That’s why AFSCME is pushing hard for paid parental leave for union members and all workers. We believe paid parental leave should be guaranteed to all hardworking Minnesotans, not just the wealthy few.”

Minnesota becomes the fourth state to offer paid parental leave to state employees - and the workers didn’t have to give up anything to get it. In fact, Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov Smith recognize that paid parental leave saves employers money and helps them recruit and retain the best and brightest employees. It boosts productivity and morale.

Before this, state workers didn’t have paid parental leave. They had to use up their accrued sick leave and vacation time, or buy short-term disability insurance, to afford taking time off to have a baby and care for it. Many ended up carrying the financial burden of unpaid weeks off or had to return to work too early, struggling to find childcare since most providers won’t take a baby until it’s at least six weeks old.

It’s a dilemma AFSCME member Melinda Pearson knows all too well.

Melinda Falk and her son Michael.
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Pearson gave birth to her son without paid leave, says her mother Mary Falk, who shared her story. Pearson had to use up her sick leave, vacation time and short-term disability at Saint Paul College.

“Her family was broke by the time she returned to work after eight weeks of unpaid leave,” Falk said of her daughter. “Melinda’s pregnancy was difficult with three weeks of bed rest and a C-section. She went to work when it was still painful because she couldn’t afford to be out without a paycheck. Her health insurance lapsed. She stopped nursing and pumping before she was ready. And she put Michael (her son) in daycare before he was ready.”

Falk says her grandson is the family’s pride and joy.

“But it shouldn’t be so hard to bring a child into this world,” Falk says. “No parent should ever have to choose between a paycheck and caring for their newborn. In Minnesota, state employees won’t have to make that difficult choice anymore.”

If you’re a state worker and you have any questions or problems securing your paid leave, contact your field representative.

You can find a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding that outlines the benefit here.