Front-Line Workers in MN Demand Fair Compensation
Thursday, December 2, 2021
MINNEAPOLIS -- Several regional labor groups rallied in Minneapolis on Wednesday, demanding state leaders take action to reflect the sacrifices made by front-line pandemic workers, including releasing money intended as bonus payments.
This fall, a legislative working group failed to come to an agreement on distributing $250 million in front-line worker pay. Republicans insist on divvying up bigger checks to a limited number of workers, while Democrats have pushed for a wider range of recipients, even if the payments are smaller.
Angie Halseth, statewide vice president for the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees and a caseworker at the Lino Lakes Correctional Facility, worries about being left out despite her commitment during the crisis.
"I became, I would say, a nurse," Halseth recounted. "We were used to take temperatures and vital signs. We made meals. We actually received duty belts and training to cover officer posts when we were so short-staffed."
Halseth echoed other calls for the state to go beyond the $250 million investment. She argued the state has the resources to make front-line workers whole. The stalemate is at the center of political differences over whether there should be a special session before year's end.
A range of front-line workers have received praise from elected officials and other leaders since the start of the pandemic. But Halseth argued praise only goes so far when so many have put themselves at risk.
"We have told our stories to the task force, and we'll keep telling them and keep standing together," Halseth emphasized.
Some Republican members of the working group say while they heard many of the stories, they feel the money should go to those who had direct contact with COVID, such as health-care workers.
But Halseth countered at her job, there were scenarios where staff had no other choice but to be in contact with people who were COVID-positive. She added if they became infected, there were situations where they had to use their paid time off, even with some COVID leave available to certain workers.
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