“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.”
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.
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
- child care and schools
- food service, food production, food processing and sales, distribution and delivery
- shelters and hotels
- building services, maintenance, security, and janitorial
- transit, airport services (excluding airlines)
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.”
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.