Local 49 member TJ Hodges testified in front of the Frontline Worker Pay Working Group on Wednesday to advocate for Local 49 members to be included in the recently authorized $250 million to be given to frontline workers who remained on the job during the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Governor Tim Walz, the Minnesota House, and the Minnesota Senate appointed a workgroup to decide who is included in the pool of frontline workers to receive the $250 million. This workgroup consists of one GOP House member, one DFL Senator, two GOP Senators, and three Governor appointees. By September 6, 2021, the workgroup must submit proposed legislation with seven of the nine votes to approve.
Local 49 is urging this workgroup to include our members who continued to maintain our communities throughout the pandemic in this $250 million payout. Many of our members experienced multiple quarantine events, requiring them to utilize large portions of their PTO accounts. These events were caused by factors outside an employee or employer control, including work conditions that lacked necessary PPE or did not allow for recommended social distancing. Workers also faced several conditions that increased the likelihood that they would need to utilize their PTO, including rapidly changing travel restrictions, childcare needs, and frequent exposure to COVID-19 based on public interactions necessary for work.
TJ, who is a fleet maintenance mechanic for Anoka County, expressed these concerns during his testimony and stated:
“When COVID-19 hit, and Minnesota went into lockdown, I was on vacation out of state. I came back to my job for half a day before getting pulled aside and told that I would have to use a combination of my flex time off and medical leave and quarantine for two weeks because I had been traveling.
Some of my other coworkers could work nearly two days before being told they needed to quarantine. That’s 80 hours out the window that I might need if a family member or I got sick or exposed. When I did return, our team did not have the proper PPE to be doing our jobs, nor was there adequate cleaning supplies to maintain a healthy workplace. My supervisor ultimately went to a hardware store to get us masks and antibacterial wipes for the workplace.
I’m fortunate I haven’t been sick. I haven’t had a close family member be sick, but not all my crew are so lucky. They have all been forced to deplete their earned time off at the same time as having increased exposure to COVID-19 with few resources to protect ourselves.”
The exact selection criteria that the workgroup will base their decision on has yet to be announced. However, Local 49 will continue to fight for our members to be included in this essential worker payout. We thank TJ for his highly critical testimony to the working group, and we will continue to update the membership as this legislation unfolds.