The national Family Medical Leave ACT (FMLA) turns 25 next week, and U.S. Sen. Tina Smith was in town over the weekend to discuss how Minnesota’s paid parental leave policy could be a stepping stone to national paid family leave.
In the photo on the left, from left to right, are: Debra Fitzpatrick, Humphrey School of Public Affairs; Sen. Tina Smith; state Sen. Susan Kent; and MAPE’s Stephanie Meyer.
FMLA allows workers up to 12 weeks of protected unpaid time off to welcome a new baby, care for an ill family member or care for their own health without losing their jobs. Currently, only 13 percent of workers nationwide have access to paid family leave. Smith hosted a roundtable discussion at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs to discuss the importance of a national paid family leave policy.
Stephanie Meyer, one of MAPE’s paid parental leave campaign leaders and now a member of the union’s Board of Directors, attended the meeting. She said Smith highlighted paid family leave state legislation in California where employers and employees pay amounts into an insurance fund (usually around $1.50 a week). Employees are able to draw from the fund for partial wage replacement for needed time off to deal with a seriously ill family member or bond with a new child.
“As lieutenant governor, I was proud to work alongside MAPE to help bring paid parental leave to Minnesota state employees,” said Smith, a member of the U.S. Senate Labor Committee. “But we need to keep working, because there are parents all across the state who still don’t have access to paid family and medical leave. As senator, I’m fighting in Washington to ensure that no Minnesotan has to choose between a paycheck and taking care of a loved one.”
“MAPE began its paid parental leave campaign three years ago because we wanted to make life easier for parents and make the state of Minnesota an even better place to work," Meyer said. "Providing this benefit not only improved the state’s ability to compete with local governments and businesses already offering paid parental leave, but also set an example for other employers across Minnesota.”
In addition to MAPE, other organizations participating in the discussion included ISAIAH, Minnesota Nurses Association and the Main Street Alliance. The University of Minnesota’s Debra Fitzpatrick, who also served as research lead and author for the state’s comprehensive report on family and medical leave insurance, and State Senator Susan Kent, a longtime proponent of MAPE’s paid parental leave initiative, also took part in the roundtable discussion.