Minnesota DFL proposal for frontline worker bonus pay seeks to recognize more workers

 “The GOP must do better and come to an agreement that recognizes the deep sacrifices that we all have made as essential workers,” said Jesslynn Phillips, a grocery store cashier in Richfield and UFCW Local 663 member. Phillips believes she and her coworkers are worthy to be included in the overdue bonus pay proposals Minnesota legislators have been working on. “I help hundreds of customers each shift,” said Phillips. “My customers have a positive attitude…they let me and my coworkers know how much they dislike the pandemic and how it has caused many inconveniences in their lives. My coworkers and I continue to keep Minnesotan families fed.”

Last week, GOP members of the Frontline Worker Pay Working Group offered their proposal on how to distribute $250 million to essential workers in Minnesota.

Senator Karin Housley, Representative Mary Kiffmeyer, and Representative Anne Neu Brindley announced a proposal that would give $1200 to long-term healthcare workers, nurses, first responders, corrections officers, and hospice providers, saying they’re the workers who have been most at risk during the pandemic.

Today, the DFL members responded alongside workers, restating their proposal that intends to be more inclusive. 

“The GOP assessment of which workers are not worthy is wrong, upsetting, and insulting to all frontline workers that have risked their health and the health of their families to do the work that allowed us to continue to stay safe and have access to day-to-day necessities that we sometimes take for granted,” said Representative Cedrick Frazier.

Representative Cedrick Frazier (district 45A) outlines the details of a more inclusive bonus payment proposal that they talked about in August.

They estimate 667,000 workers will be eligible for a payment of $375. 

“This amount is not sufficient to reflect workers’ sacrifices, but it is meaningful,” said Rep. Frazier. “Three hundred and seventy-five dollars would cover two weeks of groceries for a family of three.”

Eligible workers must have worked at least 120 hours in Minnesota during the state’s peacetime emergency, not have been able to telecommute to their workplace, and have worked in close proximity to others, whether it was coworkers, patients, customers, or clients. The DFL proposal would be open to workers in more categories than the GOP proposal, including:

  • public health
  • social service
  • courts
  • child care and schools
  • food service, food production, food processing and sales, distribution and delivery
  • retail
  • shelters and hotels
  • building services, maintenance, security, and janitorial
  • transit, airport services (excluding airlines)
  • manufacturing

There would be a 45-day window to apply, and the payments would be excluded from state taxes, with the cost of administration and outreach not included. They called for more resources to be allocated by the legislature. 

“We will have billions of dollars for a supplemental budget in the next legislative session, and 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,” said Representative Ryan Winkler. “We have the money…what we lack is the will to do it.”

Rep. Winkler said that conversations with Sen. Housley are happening, but they keep running into a problem with the threat of removal of Department of Health commissioner Jan Malcolm.

“We have lost two educators already since the start of school to covid…this pandemic is not done,” said Senator Erin Murphy. “Putting a threat on the table to remove the health commissioner at this point in time is not only a roadblock to completing this work, but it is a ridiculous proposition for the people of Minnesota. If Jan Malcolm were removed from office, it would destabilize our effort on covid.”

Troy Bowman, a janitor in downtown Minneapolis and member of SEIU Local 26. “I went over two months without pay. I had to use my PTO hours to get paid so I wouldn’t lose all my income. I had a covid vacation using PTO hours…our employers showed us they didn’t care.”
“My customers see how I can turn the day or a moment around if something isn’t going right. Any my six-year-old daughter sees that at home. I’m a single mom and my daughter is too young to be vaccinated for covid, and I see how it’s changing her childhood. It’s not fair for our kids. That’s why we must be resilient with them, and I am resilient.”—Jesslynn Phillips, grocery store worker and UFCW Local 663 member

Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, and covid ICU nurse in Robbinsdale, spoke about an entire system of workers that helped nurses and hospitals function during the pandemic.

“How long can we endure this and be taken for granted?” said Turner. “Don’t even go there saying that we’re heroes…if we’re valued and recognized, then we’ll be willing to keep working for the people of Minnesota.”

This is a developing story. Read Workday Minnesota’s coverage on the GOP proposal announcement here.

Amie Stager is the Associate Editor for Workday Magazine.

3 thoughts on “Minnesota DFL proposal for frontline worker bonus pay seeks to recognize more workers

  1. I agree everyone suffered during the epidemic but there are those who did much more. People who continue to burn out and quit their jobs because of the demand on their bodies physically and emotionally. I am a nurse and I feel we still continue to work above and beyond. In my hospital many of the staff such as management, office workers, clinic docs worked from home for a year while we busted. We got all the nursing home covid patients that filled our hospital to where we couldn’t keep any acute patients and all had to be sent to other hospitals. For us it is only getting worse as nurses continue to leave and we run even more short. Our bodies and minds and only hold on for so long. I dont feel it should be paid out the same across the board. It isnt right.

  2. I completely understand that all are not equal to the amount of work that has been done during this crisis. But I also know that a few hospitals have already given nurses large sums of money for being utilized in other departments to help out their fellow colleagues. And this wasn’t no chump change. Nurses in the main O.R here at the hospital I work at were given the option to collect a one time $12000 payout to temporarily increase their FTE. Not sure how many took this offer. But the point is, that it was offered. I work in the same rooms with these nurses and didn’t receive anything because my job title is a nurse. And I would also like to add. That I too, was sent to other floors to help out nurses with their patients. So to be fair. I think that any Healthcare worker that has already received an incentive pay through their employer should be ineligible to receive any other monetary entitlements. This will at least open up a few more doors for other people to get in on what they too deserve

  3. This is such a difficult thing, and it really feels like it shouldn’t be. I have a very unique perspective on this being both a healthcare worker and a retail worker(very part time during COVID) I can tell you that in my primary job I have sat with people taking their last breath so they could have someone with them because family was not allowed at the time, and that was so hard. It’s probably going to require therapy at some point, but I have the resources to get that if I need it. Now for the other side. I also work for a grocery store very part time. The difference between how the 2 groups of people are doing right now is staggering. My primary job I was working 80 hours per week for months and no time really to spend much. My colleagues talk about similar working hours. Point being my bank accounts are just fine if I’m being honest. It’s not to say that this group doesn’t deserve something, I just do not feel we need to be first, unless it is for mental health help. Now my colleagues that work at the grocery store are not fairing well at all. They are struggling with child care, rent, food,many have contracted Covid-19 recently and most are fully vaccinated. Here is my point, yes, healthcare workers should be recognized, but we need to remember that I as a healthcare worker would have never been able to care for you if it were not for my brothers and sisters in the service industry. I think we need to remember that.

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