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AFSCME Local 2822 is honking horns to protect public health and worker safety

Union demands: End library curbside and service center drive through, expand remote services and internet access
By staff |
April 24, 2020
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AFSCME Local 2822 is honking horns to protect public health and worker safety

Plymouth, MN - Last week, over 60 cars converged on Ridgedale Library and Service Center in Minnetonka to demand public health and worker safety. Now Hennepin County union library and service center workers represented by AFSCME Local 2822 and supporters will be gathering at Plymouth Library parking lot, 15700 36th Ave N, Friday, April 24, 12:30 pm to press their demands to: end library curbside pick-up program until the spread of COVID-19 is better understood in Minnesota; end the DMV drive thru window at Maple Grove Licensing Service Center, and delay drop box service at service centers until workers can process motor vehicle transactions remotely.

According to a statement form by AFSCME Local 2822, “People need safe remote access to educational materials, information and entertainment. Workers need safe remote work.”

Two weeks ago, Hennepin County opened non-critical services at eight libraries and one licensing service center. Library curbside pick-up and DMV drive thru services offer very limited services and pose a significant risk to public health and worker safety.

“No one cares more about the library collection and access to it than frontline library workers. But circulating materials that only a few patrons can access is not worth the risk to workers and the community,” Lindsey Fenner, library specialist at Hosmer Library in South Minneapolis, and AFSCME Local 2822 executive board member.

Hennepin County has the highest infection rate in the state. Circulating thousands of physical library materials, and processing motor vehicle transactions increases potential transmission of COVID-19 and unnecessarily endangers the lives of members of the public and library workers.

Guidelines for library materials sanitation and safe handling from industry-specific sources range from one day to 14 days for quarantining materials. The lack of conclusive research means that an abundance of caution should be used to protect worker and patron safety. Providing these non-critical services also takes away much needed PPE and sanitizing supplies from other critical services of Hennepin County.

Liz Knaeble, a worker at Webber Park Library in North Minneapolis said, “I have had to choose between going back to work where I am putting my health and perhaps my life at risk - I am 60 years old - and staying home, without knowing if I will have any money coming in. We get the message that our lives are not valued.”

Library workers are also pushing Hennepin County Library to focus more on providing innovative remote services that support more community members. Jayne Mikulay, a library worker and vice president of AFSCME Local 2822, said, “I am supporting my son with distance learning and we continue to see the digital divide with children and families not having access to technology. We are not supporting the communities that need the most support right now by focusing on picking up books. Holds for books are primarily placed by patrons who already have access to technology. I want to support my library community by doing what’s best for safety and what’s best for communities that experience the most disparities.”

AFSCME Local 2822 continues to demand for the entire pandemic period:

  • Remote work for all non-essential workers; essential workers at risk or caring for those at risk;
  • In the event no work is available paid administrative leave/COVID-19 leave OR
  • Extended SLWOP so workers can access unemployment benefits and maintain full employment status for the entire Pandemic period;
  • Truly voluntary reassignment process: No loss of income or benefits for workers who decline public facing work assignments;
  • PPE and Hazard Pay for any workers working onsite and in the field.