To highlight the needs facing Minnesota workers, Senate DFLers held an informational committee hearing this week to discuss a package of bills that would raise pay, improve safety, and protect working Minnesotans Monday. The hearing specifically highlighted a package of bills that have yet to receive action in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The first bill in the package was legislation that would act on the biggest piece of unfinished action from last year’s session – providing bonus pay to frontline workers. The bill, which has passed in the House and has the support of Governor Walz, would provide $1500 in bonuses to all of Minnesota’s 667,000 workers. As of Thursday, March 17, it has now been 259 days since the legislation establishing the work group responsible for this bill has passed.
Following testimony on the frontline worker bill, the hearing included presentations and testimony from workers on three pieces of legislation that would raise pay, improve safety, and raise standards to protect and support workers throughout the state.
The first bill would establish earned safe and sick time benefits for Minnesota workers. For every 30 hours worked, a worker would earn one hour of paid earned sick and safe time. Under the program, workers would be able to accrue up to 48 hours per year.
The second bill is the Safe Workplaces for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers Act. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, meat and poultry processing workers have been some of the most hard-hit workers, with thousands of workers in this industry having to miss work due to contracting the virus. This comes on top of the challenges that already come for workers who already face dangerous conditions and on the job hazards in this industry. The legislation would raise industry standards, provide stronger protections for workers who speak out on dangerous conditions, and include stronger regulatory enforcement from the state.
The third and final bill presented in the hearing was the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act. While Minnesota’s nurses have faced unprecedented challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, they were facing unsustainable short-staffing and cost-cutting from hospitals before the pandemic. Now, despite having some of the highest number of registered nurses per capita in the country, many are leaving the profession. The Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act would raise standards for adequate staffing throughout the state, provide increased aid for those considering nursing as a profession, and increase mental health support for Minnesota’s nurses. (SF 2650, 29, 1598, 3027)