The Labor Movement’s long history is populated with fights for safer working conditions and workplace safety laws. The COVID-19 pandemic has put worker safety back in the spotlight as working people across Minnesota and the nation face unprecedented concerns. In far too many states, workers who don’t have the protection that comes from union membership are forced to choose between a paycheck and potentially life-threatening working conditions. But thanks to our state’s unions and Governor Tim Walz, working people in our state now have tools to report unsafe COVID-19 working conditions.
Responding to calls from the Minnesota AFL-CIO and affiliated unions, Governor Tim Walz issued an emergency Executive Order this spring to protect workers from retaliation when they report unsafe working conditions.
Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy thanked Governor Walz for continuing to actively seek the input of Minnesota’s Labor Movement during the peacetime emergency and said, “The simple truth is that our economy cannot rebound unless employers are held accountable to implement safety measures to protect both workers and public health. Failing to do so would result in more workers falling sick and even more economic damage.”
To better help working Minnesotans who don’t have union protection, the Minnesota AFL-CIO created an online portal for workers to report unsafe working conditions.
"We’re receiving reports from workers in almost every single sector and none of them have the protection of a union,” said Todd Dahlstrom, Organizing & Growth Director for the Minnesota AFL-CIO. “Many are customer-facing workers who are being forced into daily contact with people not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.”
Dahlstrom follows up with every worker who submits the form. Depending on their particular situation, workers are either connected to the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation’s worker navigators if they are experiencing financial hardship, referred to an appropriate union if they are interested in organizing their workplace, or provided with assistance reporting unsafe conditions to the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry.
“The Department [of Labor and Industry] has been very responsive in taking action on the reports we’ve helped workers file,” Dahlstrom added. “Unions first emerged in response to unsafe and unfair workplaces and non-union working Minnesotans are learning why they are more relevant than ever today.”
The Minnesota AFL-CIO is continuing to urge working Minnesotans to report any unsafe COVID-19 conditions at aflcio.mn/report.