Opinion editor's note: This article, part of our New Voices collection, was written by a first-time contributor to Star Tribune Opinion. For more information about our efforts to continually expand the range of views we publish, see startribune.com/opinion/newvoices.


We are all human. At some point, each of us has had to or will have to navigate an unexpected challenge that disrupts our lives, whether something minor like taking a sick day to battle a cold or something more serious like taking a series of days to help a loved one get through a health emergency. For decades, small businesses have had to be creative in finding solutions for their employees to handle these disruptions.

But now one of the many important pieces of legislation its way through the Minnesota Legislature is a bill that invests in a new statewide, publicly administered program that would provide Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) to all Minnesota workers and small-business owners. As a small-business owner who has deep relationships with many fellow small-business owners across the state, I view this proposed legislation as a step forward and am excited about all the potential positive impacts it will have for my business and my employees.

While critics say the bill is bad for small businesses, the opposite is true. The PFML bill is a big win for small businesses because it is affordable, more accessible to all Minnesotans and helps level the playing field for small businesses.

I co-own a small coffee shop and roasting business in St. Paul. In the last 15 years, my business partner and I have worked hard to provide PFML to our employees when needs have unexpectedly arisen. We've had an employee be hospitalized to remove a tumor and two employees suffer bike accidents that required months of recovery. And of course, we navigated the closing of our cafe in 2020 to manage the public health impacts of the pandemic.

Each time one of these events happened, we had to work hard just to make sure our employees had a job to come back to, as we did not have the financial resources to pay them while they were physically unable to work. This included crowdsourcing finances when we could. Despite making this piecemeal approach work, it is hard to forget that this arrangement left us as small-business owners financially and emotionally drained and our employees with inadequate time to recover and care for themselves.

Had the currently proposed PFML program instead been in place, we could have saved a lot of resources to achieve the same result, with more certainty and peace of mind possible both for ourselves and our employees. It would have allowed our employees to keep their jobs and receive their benefits, all while saving us time, energy and dollars. Additionally, because this program is for all Minnesotans, those who are self-employed (like us owners) would have also been covered if something had happened to us. Lastly, this plan would have helped us with hiring and retention, allowing us to better compete with larger companies who already provide their own private PFML plans.

Many other small-business owners and employees have similar stories, which is why we know the proposed PFML legislation — HF 2 — would have a powerful, positive impact in every corner of the state. We will be sharing these stories with legislators in support of HF 2 during Main Street Alliance's Small Business Day of Action on April 17. If you are a small-business owner or employer who values the affordability and flexibility that this publicly administered PFML program would create for your employees, I encourage you to join us for the day of action and share your story.

The new opportunities for affordable, accessible and competitive PFML that would be available through this publicly administered program for everyone means that all employers and employees will benefit and get what they need — a huge investment not only in small businesses and their people, but for all Minnesotans. Now is the time to act.

Andrew Kopplin is the co-owner of Kopplin's Coffee in St. Paul.