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Minnesota: Hennepin County workers fight back in times of crisis

By staff |
March 18, 2020
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Minneapolis, MN - Hennepin County union workers keep fighting for worker and community safety. AFSCME Local 2822 has led the charge, alongside sister Hennepin County AFSCME locals. AFSCME Local 2822 represents almost 1300 clerical workers, including service center representatives, office specialists and library specialists, who do work that cannot be done from home.

Workers won a major victory on March 16, after days of frontline workers and community members speaking out about public health and safety concerns at worksites like licensing service centers, libraries, and human service hubs. Hennepin County finally closed all public-facing county buildings after workers spoke out about how a lack of social distancing, sanitizing equipment, or training was putting both workers and the public at risk.

Workers are fighting for paid administrative pandemic leave for all workers who cannot work remotely, or workers who cannot work because of illness, health issues, caretaking responsibilities, or building closures. The county administration’s offer for workers to use up their own banked leave or “accruing a negative leave balance” that must be paid back from future leave accruals isn’t good enough.

In a time of global crisis, county workers deserve support from their employer, not the potential for facing years to accrue enough leave to pay the county back. The county has already budgeted for this money to be spent. By requiring workers to use sick leave, go without pay, or accrue a negative leave balance, the county is clearly showing that their primary concern is not the health and safety needs of employees and the public.

Local 2822 cares about the community and understands how essential many county services are. To support workers who must be on the frontlines, AFSCME is fighting for two-times hazard pay for workers whose role in critical in delivering county services. All non-critical workers who cannot work remotely need to allowed to stay home without losing their full pay.