Testimony made clear more too many are being left behind, and more must be done
To highlight the needs facing Minnesota workers, Senate DFLers held an informational committee hearing to discuss a package of bills that would raise pay, improve safety, and protect working Minnesotans on Monday. The hearing specifically highlighted a package of bills that have yet to receive action in the Republican-controlled Senate.
“Today’s hearing is an opportunity for us to hear directly from workers from across the state about the real conditions they face every day, and what they need from us to ensure that they are safe, supported, and paid a fair wage,” said Chair of the Committee Senator Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis). “We must use today’s hearing as a call to action for all of us at the Legislature to take meaningful action, invest in them, and address these critical issues.”
The first bill in the package was SF 2650, 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.
“At the top of our priority list is completing our unfinished work of 2021. We must provide all of our frontline workers with the bonus pay they need, and more importantly, deserve,” said Senator Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul). “Essential workers have been waiting for us to fulfill the promise we made to them. With a forecasted $9 billion budget surplus, it is inexcusable that we have not yet done our part. We must finally take action for those who worked, faced extraordinary risks, and kept Minnesota moving.”
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 (SF 29) 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 (SF1598) 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 (SF3027) 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.
“What today’s hearing revealed is that the only reason our state is facing such a strong economic position is thanks to the sacrifice and contributions working Minnesotans continue to make, and yet the testimony also revealed that far too many of these essential workers are being left behind,” said Senate DFL Leader Melisa López Franzen. “Our workers deserve more than just our appreciation, they deserve better support, better benefits, and better pay. They deserve better. The Senate DFL will continue to fight every day of this session to give them what they deserve and earned.”