Judicial Branch Paid Leave Campaign, Part 3: “Once the baby gets here, I will have nothing.”

(If you haven't read Part 1 of our Judicial Branch campaign series, start here.)

Few benefits are so impactful – and so urgent – as paid family leave. Every year that paid family leave gets left on the bargaining table, more babies are born into families who can’t afford to spend their first few weeks at home. Dawn DeCock, a five-year employee with the Wright Country Judicial System, is pregnant with her third child, due in September. If the Judicial Branch doesn’t get Paid Parental Leave this year, her family will have to make sacrifices to get by - without a benefit that all other state employees can count on.

With the clock ticking, Dawn is hopeful but planning for all possibilities. “You try to have a plan, but there are always surprises,” said Dawn. She is struggling to plan, not just for time off, but for life after the baby arrives. This is especially challenging because in the Judicial Branch, employees must use all their sick time before they can access any other benefits, even unpaid ones like FMLA. This means that once she returns to work after maternity leave, she will not be able to take any more time off to handle illnesses in the family.

“When you put your baby in daycare they get sick often,” she said. “You’re basically left with nothing to use.” In the two years since her son was born, Dawn has managed to save up 30 hours of sick time, which will only get her through prenatal appointments. “Once the new baby gets here, I will have nothing,” she said.

Crystal, Jessica, and Dawn are just three of the hundreds of women employed by the State of Minnesota who are balancing work and family. But unlike Executive Branch employees, these women can’t count on the Paid Family Leave benefits they were promised over two years ago. Judicial Branch employees live in a shadow, neglected in the implementation of a policy secured in the public discourse, but not at the bargaining table. With their contracts controlled by a narrow and mostly unaccountable governing body, they have few options for appeal.

The process leaves Judicial Branch members feeling unheard and misunderstood. To make matters worse, management has repeatedly said dismissive or hurtful things about members’ efforts to get better benefits. Jessica reported learning that a member of management’s negotiating team said, “If you guys get this [Paid Parental Leave], people will think your benefits are too good.”

“That stuck with me because I feel like, you’re not in touch with your people and what they need,” said Jessica.

When members of our labor family are being left behind because bosses are stingy and elected officials are slow to react, we stand up and fight back. That’s why we’re joining together to support Judicial Branch members as they head into their second round of negotiations.

Show your support for your labor siblings – share this story on social media. Let’s send a message that we all deserve fairness, opportunity, and dignity in the workplace.