FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Workers will continue push both inclusive recognition and additional steps to protect Minnesotans
(St. Paul) – October 27, 2021 – A coalition of workers vowed to fight on to the legislative session today after three Republican legislators blocked the allocation of $250 million set aside by the legislature to compensate workers exposed to COVID-19.
Three Republican members of the Frontline Worker Pay Group voted Wednesday to reject a compromise proposal introduced by Rep. Ryan Winkler and supported by the rest of the nine-member panel. Essential workers expressed frustration that for months State Senators Karin Housley and Mary Kiffmeyer and Representative Anne Neu Brindley have refused to negotiate in good faith and work towards compensating most of the workers who have been put at risk of COVID.
“After nearly two years on the frontlines of the pandemic, it is shameful that nurses and other essential workers will have to wait even longer to receive these payments,” said Mary C. Turner, RN, President of the Minnesota Nurses Association and a COVID ICU nurse. “Minnesota nurses deserve a meaningful recognition of the sacrifices they have made over the last two years, as do all frontline workers. Legislators must make it right by approving additional funding for frontline worker pay as well as measures to address the unsafe and unsustainable working conditions that hospitals and other workplaces have created.”
Republican Senators have also announced plans to fire the State’s Health Commissioner if a special legislative session is called to implement frontline worker pay, potentially leaving workers without a key leader involved in protecting them and presenting another barrier to allocating the funds.
“As a retail grocery worker, I am a critical component of the food supply chain. We help keep thousands of Minnesota families fed and we provide safe, friendly marketplaces to access goods. I am also a frontline essential worker that has been excluded from the Republican proposal for frontline essential worker pay,” said Dwight Gaddis, UFCW Local 663 member who works at Kowalski’s Markets. “As an essential frontline worker since the beginning of the pandemic, the right thing to do is to honor all essential frontline workers by passing legislation that disburses the $250 million in a swift manner into the hands that need it.”
As the chance of an agreement apparently ended, workers reiterated that they will continue pushing for the $250 million to be spent as soon as possible in a way that includes all frontline workers. Essential workers also committed to push for a broader package to actually address the deep, systemic issues that were brought up throughout the hearings, including the allocation of additional recognition, measures that address issues of compensation and safer workplaces that are at the root of the staffing shortages in sectors like health care, long term care, child care, education, and meat-packing.
Essential workers from every corner of the state offered moving testimony over recent months about the need to get the money allotted by the legislature to hard-hit essential workers such as child care providers, educators, meat packers and the staff who clean and protect public buildings to recognize the work that continues to be done to keep Minnesotans safe throughout the pandemic.
After the deadline set by the legislature passed last September, groups representing hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans released a statement calling out the Republicans to stop blocking to drop their demand to exclude most Essential Workers who face COVID risks from the hero pay agreed to in legislative negotiations.