Voting ends today on a sick leave access MOU to care for children under COVID-19 quarantine

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For the past week, MAPE members have been voting on a contract memorandum of understanding (MOU) allowing employees to use sick leave for minor children who are not ill but need to quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure. Currently, members may use sick leave for children only when they are ill, injured and/or attending medical appointments.

“This has been a huge problem and a lot of members came to stewards because they were using up all of their vacation to stay home with kids who were quarantined because they may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19,” MAPE Vice President Angie Halseth said. Halseth also chairs the Employee Rights Committee, which is comprised of chief stewards from each of MAPE’s 21 regions.

Local 1002’s Andrea Hansen Bishop has a three-year-old son, Max, and she said she voted in favor of the MOU. “Our daycare was closed for two weeks last year because of COVID-19, and I was fortunate to be able to take advantage of the governor’s COVID-19 leave policy then. I don’t know what I will do if it happens again, and I know a lot of people are in the same position,” Bishop said.

“It is sick leave that I’ve accrued. I can use it today when my child is sick and for his medical appointments. But when his daycare closes, I can’t use my earned time. What’s really not fair about the situation is we can’t plan for it because it’s COVID-19 and out of our hands,” she added.

Bishop works in the testing and assessment division at the Minnesota Department of Education where she serves as a test integrity online specialist.

Like many young children, Max is an active three-year-old and makes it difficult to work from home. “I want to do my job, but I can’t when a toddler is around. Yet we can’t take our accrued sick time. I enjoy what I do and don’t want to quit my job,” Bishop said. “I think this MOU is a really important thing to have in our contract. It’s our earned time and we should be able to use it for this.”

Halseth said she has heard members say positive things about the MOU. “MAPE is able to organize and push the charge forward; without that, Minnesota Management and Budget probably wouldn’t even have considered it. They wouldn’t have worried about it – it’s the organized people and the union power that comes with that.”

If the MOU is approved, it would be effective July 1, 2021, and employees may need to provide documentation. For retroactive utilization of this MOU, modified paperwork and timesheets may be required.