Statewide Briefing Reveals Earned Sick Time Access Rates Vary Widely Based on County of Residence

For Immediate Release – September 24, 2014
Contact: Greta Bergstrom, Greta@TakeActionMinnesota.org, 651.336.6722

Greater Minnesota counties, including St. Louis and Stearns, rank worst

St. Paul, MN – TakeAction Minnesota and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research released a new report detailing access rates to earned sick time in Minnesota based on county of residence. The report, which can be found here, is a companion to data released earlier in the month, detailing statewide access rates to earned sick leave across the state, which affects over one million Minnesota workers.

State Representative John Lesch (St. Paul, 66B), chief author in the Minnesota House of a bill to guarantee earned sick and safe time for Minnesota workers, joined the call. “The figures in this report mirror what we saw back in 2007 when I first introduced earned sick time legislation. And things aren’t getting better for Minnesota’s working families. The data shines a spotlight on some of the key reasons I’m authoring earned sick and safe time legislation. Lack of access is unfair, it’s unsustainable for our state, and it’s bad for families and for business.”

The report shows that access to earned sick leave varies considerably by one’s county of residence. The more populous metro-based counties, including Scott, Carver, Washington, Dakota and Anoka, rank highest in terms of access to earned sick benefits. These counties perform better than the statewide average of 59.2% and can be attributed to a higher concentration of white-collar, management occupations and skilled professions as well as higher levels of access to full-time, living-wage jobs.

Residents of the southeast portion of St. Louis county, including Duluth and Hermantown, are least likely to have access to sick leave in the state, with fewer than half of workers in these two cities having access. (Residents of the more northeastern portion of St. Louis county enjoy slightly higher access rates.) Liz Olson, TakeAction Minnesota’s Organizing & Policy Manager, said the findings match her experience in working with women and families in Duluth. “Too many workers, especially women raising kids and working in service-sector and hospitality jobs, face the impossible choice between caring for their kids or family members or losing a paycheck or their job altogether. Ensuring that all Minnesota workers have access to earned sick and safe time is smart public policy and will improve the economic security for people across our state.”

Virtually all Greater Minnesota counties have access rates below the state average of 59.2%, with two exceptions — Olmsted and Wright counties.  In over thirty counties nearly half of workers, fewer than 55%, lack access to earned sick time. Based on county of residence, access to earned sick time varies from a high of 65.7% (Scott) to a low of 49.6% (the southeast portion of St. Louis county). Lesch and Olson both believe these geographic inequities deserve legislative attention next year. While a detailed ranking of county access can be found here, those with the highest, and lowest, access rates include:

  • Counties with the highest access rates, all above the state average of 59.2%: Scott, Carver, Washington, Olmsted, Dakota, Wright, Anoka, Hennepin
  • Counties with the lowest access rates, far below the state average: St. Louis, Stearns, Itasca, Carlton, Cass and Aitkin

Jessica Milli, Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, also reviewed key findings from a broader statewide analysis released on September 12. That analysis found that 41% of Minnesota workers lack access to even a single day off to care for themselves, a sick child or loved one. Key findings of data broken down by occupation, gender, race/ethnicity, hours worked and earnings level include:

  • 41%, over 1.1 million Minnesota workers, lack access to earned sick time benefits including a full 40% of private-sector workers (only 18% of public-sector workers lack access);
  • 60% of Latino workers in the state lack access to earned sick time benefits, significantly less likely than workers in any other racial/ethnic group, followed by 47% of African-American workers who lack access;
  • Access to earned sick time varies substantially by occupation, with 71% of those in full-time positions having access while only 26% of those working part-time having access to earned sick time benefits;
  • Service workers in particular are least likely to have access to earned sick time benefits, with only 35% having access. This includes food service and hospitality workers who work in close contact with the public;
  • 80% of full-time workers in the highest earnings brackets, making over $65,000 annually, have access while only 34% of full-time workers in the lowest earnings brackets, making $15,000 or less, have access to earned sick time benefits.

The county-by-county access report, developed by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, details access rates for individuals 18 years and older, living in Minnesota regardless of their place of work. Data was culled from the 2010-2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the 2012 IPUMS American Community Survey (ACS).

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TakeAction Minnesota is a statewide people’s network of individual and organizational members working collaboratively to raise the voices of Minnesotans in their own communities to advance social, racial and economic justice. The organization has offices in St. Paul, Duluth and Grand Rapids.

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