Yesterday, the Minnesota House passed HF 2768, the state employee labor contracts negotiated last year. The Minnesota Senate still has not yet scheduled a vote on the contracts, despite there being only a week remaining in the legislative session.
State workers have been on the frontlines as the global pandemic has surged through Minnesotans.
State workers responding to the challenge of COVID-19 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.
According to a statement sent by a coalition of state employee unions,
“Now is not the time to play political games with livelihoods of state workers who are doing so much to keep Minnesotans safe and government running during this critical time. These are just a handful of the thousands of stories of state workers who are giving their all for their fellow Minnesotans. They need to be taken care of, too.”
Stephanie Meyer, senior epidemiologist and MAPE region 9 director
“I’m on the case investigative team where we contact confirmed COVIS-19 patients, talk with them about their exposures and find out who they’ve been in close contact with. We are trying to draw a circle around each case, find the contacts, isolate, quarantine where needed, and move to the next case. If we can contain illness in these spaces it makes a difference to the bigger burden on our healthcare system.
“I have four children and I wonder what will happen if I get COVID-19. What if one of my kids get it? It keeps me up at night.”
Joshua Earlywine, corrections officer and AFSCME Local 3887 member
“I work at the Willow River Challenge Incarceration Program where we have over 38 positive cases. In order to keep my family safe, I have been sleeping in a fish house in my driveway. I have three small children at home, a four-year-old, a two-year-old and nine-month-old, who often ask, ‘Why can’t daddy hug me?’ It’s disheartening.
“Believing the State Legislature would honor their obligation to pass these contracts that were negotiated in good faith is not an unreasonable expectation. Not doing so lessens my belief that our legislative leaders can properly lead us through this crisis. We are doing our job and they must do theirs.”
Charlotte Rekken, RN, Veterans Home in Fergus Falls and MNA member
“I’ve worked the night shift at the Veterans Home in Fergus Falls for 18 years, working hard to care for our veterans and keep them safe. Some of our residents have lived here for 10 plus years. We are the ones who see them, talk to them and care for them on a daily basis. Please respect us and the care that we provide for our aging hero’s and pass our state contract.”
Alex Howell, radiography instructor,Minnesota State College Southeast and Education Minnesota member
Alex Howell’s radiography students at Minnesota State College Southeast in Winona would usually learn in class, clinic and labs. Students were pulled from clinics because there wasn’t enough personal protective equipment for the staff, let alone the students. Howell retooled his teaching, putting lectures live on Zoom and learning how to use a simulator program so students can get as close to a hands-on experience as possible.
“My colleagues and I are doing our part to make sure those future health care workers have the best education and training possible during this pandemic,” Howell said. “That’s why it’s hard for many of us to see our contract still in limbo.”
Lindsey Beyer, director of web marketing for Minnesota State University, Mankato and Teamsters member
“In this time of crisis, website communications is vital. I lead the project to create a COVID-19 website with the most up-to-date information, archives of messages, FAQs, a form that allows people to ask questions directly to administration, and a search feature so that people have easy access to information as we quickly change how we operate. As a part of alternative commencement, we created a commencement website to allow graduates to celebrate their achievements with us.
“We have also been able to get the word out about fundraising campaigns directly related to COVID-19 relief for students through email and social media. In one two-week campaign, we raised over $40,000 for students s who may have lost their jobs or are struggling financially.”
Brent Jeffers, professor, Southwest MN State University, IFO president
“State university professors, coaches, librarians and counselors have all been working overtime to ensure our students had an opportunity to succeed. Minnesota state students face a lot of complex challenges. Our members have been ready and able to meet those needs, even in the face of an international health crisis. We applaud the MN House for passing the contracts that support our faculty and staff as we continue to serve our students and communities across the state.”