On a Saturday digital press conference, state employees working on the frontlines of the pandemic shared their stories and the importance of passing state labor contracts.

State employees responding to the COVID-19 crisis include nurses, medical assistants, epidemiologists, educators, corrections officers, unemployment insurance analysts and thousands of other state workers who continue to provide critical services to the people of Minnesota.

The Minnesota House has already passed HF 2768, “but the Minnesota Senate has not scheduled a final vote, which appears to set up state workers as bait for end-of-session drama.” According to an emailed statement.

Carrie Klumb, epidemiologist at the MN Dept of Health (MAPE member) 

“ I’m now part of the team that helps monitor health care workers exposed to COVID-19 my team assesses their exposure risk and actively monitors these healthcare workers for 14 days and provides advice to facilities. Our role in this response gives us a unique opportunity to be the voice for healthcare workers on the frontline. Often we are the only people talking to these healthcare workers and checking in on them on a regular basis. We hear their concerns about their lack of PPE or being asked to go back to work while they’re still ill and we’re able to then feed those concerns up the chain at MPH. “

”I was around when we responded to the H1- N1 pandemic. And I can say that there’s absolutely no comparison. I have never seen anything like this before. It would be really discouraging if modest raises that we negotiated in good faith a year ago are taken back. Now we work really hard and we really care about what we do and we care about Minnesota and that’s why we choose jobs at the state versus going into the private sector just because we care and we’re dedicated. So I think it would be really bad for morale at the health department and be disappointing for folks if it were to be the case that the Senate doesn’t pass our contract. It would be really disheartening to feel that people didn’t value the work that we’re doing to keep Minnesota safe every day. So I’m asking the Senate to pass our contract.”

Sara Fier, professor of counseling and testing services, Southwest Minnesota State University (IFO) 

“We are the mental health first responders who provide support for students with their most personal concerns such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and in doing so we contribute to their personal and academic success, their retention at our universities and sometimes we save their lives. Our students know they can count on us,” Fier said. ”We did our best to not let bandwidth issues and zoom bombing interfere with helping our students and at the end of each day we collapsed into zoom fatigue induced sleep before getting up to do it all over again. In the midst of dealing with similar challenges in our own lives, we put a smile on our faces and projected the confidence to help our students navigate this pervasive and all encompassing major life event.” 

Jesse Dahl, electrical maintenance instructor at Hibbing Community College (MSCF and Education Minnesota) 

“We are asked time and time again to take pay cuts and pay freezes when times get tough. Why are the budgets always balanced on the backs of people? The working people, instead of asking some of our largest employers in the state to pay their fair share. Especially at times like this now we’re not asking for much. We’re asking for a fair shake.”

Jenna Chernega, vice president, IFO 

“I think what you’ve heard today is about the enormous sacrifices that state employees are already making to keep the state running. The pay increases that are part of these contracts have already been budgeted. This is not an addition to the state budget. The overall impact on the state budget in comparison to the kinds of deficits we’re looking at are relatively minor.”

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