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AFSCME Local 2822 fights for worker safety during pandemic

By staff |
April 24, 2020
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Minneapolis, MN - On April 17, more than 60 cars, filled with union members and supporters, packed the parking lot outside the Ridgedale Library. This action, one of the few worker actions happening in Minnesota during this pandemic, is part of an effort by AFSCME Local 2822 to keep Hennepin County buildings closed and keep workers paid. Joining this protest were members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, Saint Paul Federation of Educators, Teamsters Local 320, members of other AFSCME Locals representing workers in Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Saint Paul, and the University of Minnesota, and members of community organizations including the Anti-War Committee and Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar.

AFSCME Local 2822 President Ali Fuhrman said, “Books are not an essential service. The most important services our libraries can provide safely are the remote, online services that the county is no longer allowing our workers to perform.”

Library workers also demonstrated at six of the eight curbside locations, using chalk to mark slogans such as “Your books aren’t worth our lives,” “Close corona-curbside,” and, “Lives > books.”

On March 31, library specialists were informed that the remote services they were providing was not considered meaningful, and they were forced to choose between paying themselves with their sick and vacation leave balances or going back to providing whatever in person services the county administrator could dream up. One of those in-person services is the curbside hold pickup service being offered at eight Hennepin County libraries.

Hennepin County is also operating a drive-up window for its service center in Maple Grove, again providing more chances for transmission of COVID-19 through fomites. Said a Hennepin County Service Center worker and Local 2822 member, “Before the coronavirus we would regularly get documents stained with bodily fluids. There is no way to remove the risk of contamination when you are exchanging documents with the public.”

AFSCME 2822 Chief Steward Shane Clune stated, “The only way to ensure that our workers and our communities don’t spread this disease to one another is to close down in-person services. Instead of public health and worker safety, the county is caving to political pressure from the privileged.”

AFSCME Local 2822 continues to demand that the county keep buildings closed and expand remote services to the community; that the county ensures no loss in pay or benefits to workers who are unable to work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; and that the county provide hazard pay and adequate protective equipment for all workers who are required to provide services in person.

There will be another action at the Plymouth Library at 12:30, on Friday April 24.