Next steps for Minnesota AFL-CIO: Transportation, paid sick leave

Through speeches and resolutions, the Minnesota AFL-CIO convention laid out an ambitious public policy agenda that includes comprehensive improvements to the transportation system and paid sick leave for all workers.

The program builds on the success of this year’s campaign to raise the state minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2016 with annual cost of living increases. The broad coalition of labor, faith, community and other organizations is set to tackle issues like the need for paid sick leave.

The minimum wage victory “shows that we need each other and when we do stand together, we can get things done,” Brian Rusche, executive director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, told union members.

More than 900,000 Minnesota workers, many of them in restaurant, health care and other jobs that directly serve the public, have no access to earned sick time. Many workers face the threat of being disciplined or fired if they take time off due to illness or to care for a family member.

While legislation is being drafted, it’s likely to build on a proposal put forth in the 2014 session to allow employees to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.

Legislation to address transportation needs was also introduced in the session, but was not acted upon.

Nearly half of Minnesota’s roads and bridges are more than 50 years old and transit services are inadequate, the federation said, noting that the state’s population and job growth are outpacing the current infrastructure.

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