FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Push comes as Republicans continue to demand the exclusion of hundreds of thousands of workers while continuing to threaten the firing of the Health Commissioner, holding up process of getting money out
(Saint Paul) – On Wednesday, October 6th, Essential workers who have kept our state running throughout COVID were joined Wednesday by members of the Frontline Worker Pay Worker Group at the Minnesota State Capitol to demand action on a final deal from the group that includes all essential workers as Republicans on the group continue to bring up divisive issues and hold up the process that is now one month past its deadline.
“I have been working on the frontlines throughout the entire pandemic. As a Cashier and Self Checkout Attendant, I help hundreds of customers each shift. My coworkers and I continue to keep Minnesota’s families fed,” said Jesslynn Phillips, a grocery store worker and member of UFCW Local 663. “I am a single mom, and my daughter is too young to be vaccinated. Covid is changing my little girl’s childhood, and it takes a toll on her. But I am resilient and I am worthy of frontline essential bonus pay. All frontline essential workers are worthy of recognition for all of the hard work we continue to do. I am asking Republicans to not leave hundreds of thousands of frontline essential workers like myself behind, and come to a resolution this month to get the money into the hands of all essential workers where it is desperately needed.”
The Working Group members highlighted their proposal that they have been advocating for since August, before the group’s deadline, that would open an application process for Essential Workers who were directly exposed to COVID, offering a minimum of $375 per worker, depending on how many of an estimated 667,000 workers apply and certify their eligibility.
Working Group member Rep. Cedrick Fraizer shared details of the proposal that has the support of the majority of the Working Group members as the group reached one month past their original deadline:
“We are here today, one month after the Labor Day deadline we were given to decide how to give our frontline workers financial recognition for their bravery and sacrifices during the pandemic. We believe is necessary and appropriate to restate our plan after our GOP colleagues recently provided a proposal that would exclude thousands of frontline workers because, in their assessment, these workers are ‘not worthy,'” said Fraizer. “The GOP assessment of which workers are not worthy is wrong, upsetting and insulting to all the frontline workers that have risked their health and the health of their families to do the work that allows all of us to continue to stay safe.”
In addition to the three Working Group legislators, Rep. Winkler, Sen. Murphy and Rep. Frazier, who spoke at the event, Commissioner Roslyn Robertson joined to represent the three Commissioners from Gov. Walz’s team who are on the Working Group and share their support of the broad, inclusive proposal to include all essential workers.
“We couldn’t have made it this far in the pandemic without the amazing work of essential workers across our state. From healthcare workers to meat packers to child care workers to educators to janitors cleaning our stores, it has taken all of us to get through this ongoing pandemic,” said Robertson. “We share the urgency of others speaking today about working to get this deal done *this month* so we can start the process of setting up the systems to get the pay out the door and into the hands of the workers.”
These legislators and workers’ organizations pointed out that several hundred dollars, while an insufficient reward for workers’ sacrifices, would be economically meaningful to low-income workers who have often had to take unpaid time off from work during the pandemic. They also advocated to expand the pool of funding at the legislature, using federal funds and a state budget surplus.
“To say that we should start excluding workers from essential worker pay because we can’t afford to go above $250 million to recognize those people is ridiculous. We have the money. What we lack is the will to do it,” said Representative Ryan Winkler.
The legislators present also called on Senate Republicans to agree to drop their threat to fire Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm during a special session.
The prospect of firing Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm is “not only a roadblock to completing this work, but it is a ridiculous proposition for the people of Minnesota,” said Senator Erin Murphy.
This comes after groups representing hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans released a statement last month calling out the Republicans to stop blocking this from happening and to drop their demand to exclude tens of thousands of working Minnesotans from the final bill.
“Minnesota nurses were able to do their jobs only because the food service workers were there, the janitors who cleaned our buildings and our hospitals were there, the childcare workers were there so that we could go to work,” said Mary C. Turner, RN, President of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “It would be a sign that you acknowledge us. That you acknowledge the sacrifice that we did and continue to do. And I mean everybody. I tell you, as a nurse, we don’t leave anyone behind.”