As the March 27 Labor Review goes to press, Minnesota is bracing for the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Workers are on the front lines fighting this pandemic. They are caring for us, they are delivering our goods, they are protecting us, and they are maintaining our essential services and infrastructure. Their safety must be a top priority

Jobs have been slashed and workers are experiencing massive unemployment. While there are some fortunate enough to continue work from home, most are making terrifying decisions about how to afford their survival during this time. 

The news of federal and state relief packages and promises of paid time off are hitting the airwaves. However, when workers are finally able to access these benefits, it is going to be too little too late, and it leaves far too many workers behind. Those workers who are being excluded from these relief packages also are the ones most likely to already be facing financial hardship due to an economy that was failing us long before this pandemic. 

While there is more to do, we are extremely thankful for Governor Tim Walz and his strong leadership to address both the looming health crisis and the related economic crisis. 

The MRLF is a critical piece of the response network for this crisis. We are embracing this moment to fight for the things we have always fought for — safety, dignity and economic security for all workers. We are working around-the-clock to support you. Our staff is operating remotely and are eager to hear from you. We have three areas of focus:

Those Directly Impacted

Members who lose work, lose pay or are laid-off need direct assistance and are a high priority for us at this time. Members who are the most vulnerable are the most likely to be impacted and need our assistance. We are expanding our direct relief services through a new initiative to support workers in the hospitality industry — many of whom now have been out of work for almost a month and may not have access to traditional forms of relief. We are growing our capacity and training a team of navigators to help workers apply for things like Unemployment Insurance and access other benefits. 

In addition to direct support for those out of work, we also are fighting for the rights of front line employees who need workplace protection. 

Contracts and Industry Strategies

We are consulting with unions to determine the best way to work with their employers during this time. We are creating a clearinghouse of resources for best practices for workplace policies. We also are convening conversations within industries to deal with the broader immediate impacts and long-term recovery.

 Policy Considerations

This crisis is exposing what we already know — the U.S. economy is not working for today’s families. We need to continue our push for paid leave and expanded healthcare access. Workers need to be safe at work. We need to fight for emergency relief. And any emergency relief must go to those most directly impacted and must be distributed equitably. We need to advocate for these goals at the local, state and federal level.

With a lot coming at us — and a likely recession — all our efforts need to echo the call to promote economic security for all working families.

Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou was re-elected December 11, 2019 to a second four-year term as president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. 

Contact MRLF president Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou at 612-321-5670 or chelsie@minneapolisunions.org.

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