Jul 22 2022
Groups celebrate huge application numbers, praise workers who sacrificed to keep state running and call on Senate Republicans to reverse course and release $500 million they blocked from fund
Essential workers with the Frontline Worker Pay coalition, which brings together labor, faith and community groups, spoke out ahead of the July 22nd application deadline for Frontline Worker Pay. Workers praised the success of the program and repeated their push for Senate Republicans to stop blocking the full $1 billion proposed by Governor Walz and House DFLers.
“After two years on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic – often without PPE, hazard pay, retention bonuses, or paid COVID leave – essential workers came together and made our power felt to win this crucial funding,” said Mary C. Turner, RN, President of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “The incredible number of applicants shows just how important our collective efforts are, and why we need to do more to support frontline workers on the job, to solve the problems of understaffing and the often unsafe and unsupportive working conditions our executives have created.”
With over one million Minnesotans who stepped up during COVID applying for Frontline Worker Pay so far, workers called on the Senate GOP to come back to the table with at least the other $500 million they blocked to make sure essential workers are properly thanked for their sacrifices keeping the state safe, fed and running during the initial peacetime emergency.
Deimili Jimenez, a meatpacking worker and UFCW Local 663 member from Worthington, shared why getting the full $1 billion is so important to honor the Minnesotans who kept our state running:
“It’s very important to give the full amount of $1 billion to all frontline workers. We were scared to go to work, then come home and wonder if we were spreading the virus. We didn’t have the opportunity to work from home. We went to the line to process pork everyday that fed Minnesota and the world.”
Kay Brown, a security officer and Vice President of SEIU Local 26, shared why the coalition is pushing for the full $1 billion that the Governor and House proposed, but was cut in half by the Senate Republicans:
“Essential workers showed up during the scariest time of COVID, doing critical work to make sure our state was able to keep running. We did our job, and it is frustrating that Republicans cut the funding proposed by the Governor and House in half. With over a million people applying, it’s so important that Republicans in the Senate stop blocking the full funding of $1 billion so all of the workers who stepped up can get meaningful checks,” said Brown. “Most of the members of our union – made up of majority women and people of color - never got to work from home. We saw over 1,500 of our members get sick from COVID and five die. We are excited by the huge success of this program and call on those in power to make sure the $500 million cut from the Governor’s plan is moved to the fund to increase the pot.”
Tracy Roscoe, who works at a childcare center in St. Paul and is a leader with Kids Count On Us, adds: “The Senate needs to commit the $500 million to pay people who’ve worked on the frontlines. We can’t have people left behind in this. We put our health, the health of our families, and our lives on the line to keep our state running. Without childcare, it would have all fallen apart. The number of people who have applied makes it clear just how many of us are and continue to be essential. The Senate needs to step up and meet the Governor and the House’s proposal of $1 billion so that every essential worker receives a meaningful amount.”