The Minnesota AFL-CIO, the statewide federation of more than 1,000 local unions who represent more than 300,000 working people, announced its 2021 legislative priorities aimed at crisis relief, maintaining and expanding workplace rights and safety, extending paid leave for all workers, tax justice, and creating jobs & infrastructure.
“These legislative priorities represent the Labor Movement’s shared state policy vision and our commitment to racial and economic justice,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy. “Working Minnesotans have been tested over the last year like never before and are ready for a more just and equitable state for everyone, no exceptions.”
2020 was the year that brought our state’s longstanding racial and economic disparities into stark focus. COVID-19 and its unequal economic impact put extreme strain on Minnesota’s frontline workers and made the existing inequalities that Black, Indigenous, and workers of color experience even worse. George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police and the civil unrest that followed renewed the calls for justice in Minnesota and across our nation. While we have a new federal government, Minnesotans can’t wait for Washington to deliver on urgent needs like emergency COVID-19 paid leave, cash relief for lower income Minnesotans, aid to rebuild neighborhoods impacted by civil unrest, and substantial investments in emergency and affordable housing.
Workplace Rights & Safety
Governor Walz’s emergency executive orders to protect workers during the pandemic, such as the right to report unsafe conditions without retaliation, has put worker safety at the forefront of state policy. Minnesota’s Labor Movement will fight for additional worker safety provisions and oppose all efforts to end the peacetime emergency that would remove critical protections for working Minnesotans in the pandemic.
All workers should have the freedom to care for themselves and the people they love without losing pay. While many higher paid workers have access to both long and short-term paid leave, lower paid workers are often forced to choose between a paycheck and their health or their loved ones. If we want to build a truly equitable state for Minnesotans, no matter where we come from or what we look like, we should make paid sick & safe days and paid family & medical leave universal.
When we raised tax rates on the highest incomes early last decade, it led to all-day Kindergarten, stable budgets, and consistent investments in infrastructure and public services. With COVID-19 putting a hole in the state budget and increased economic needs, we can’t afford to make any cuts and must raise new revenue. We should justly fund the government Minnesotans need in a way that reflects our values of equity, dignity, and opportunity. Unlike most workers and small businesses, many of the richest Minnesotans and big corporations have prospered during the pandemic. Those who have prospered during these difficult times need to do their part as fellow Minnesotans and pay their fair share in taxes.
Jobs & Infrastructure
One of the best things Minnesota can do to emerge quickly from the economic crisis is to invest in infrastructure like roads, bridges, transit, and public buildings. Legislative action on infrastructure investments that require prevailing wage, apprenticeships, licensing, labor standards, and responsible procurement policies will make workers safer and create family-sustaining union jobs that put money back into communities and give more workers a voice on the job. Interest rates are historically low, and now is the perfect time to invest.
In addition to these 2021 priorities, the Minnesota AFL-CIO will support affiliate unions’ legislative work.