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Minnesota: AFSCME members at Hennepin County score major win

COVID childcare extended for parents and caregivers
By staff |
February 4, 2021
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AFSCME members at Hennepin County win extended COVID childcare for parents
AFSCME members at Hennepin County win extended COVID childcare for parents and caregivers (Fight Back! News/staff)

Minneapolis, MN - At the Hennepin County Commissioner meeting, February 2, the vote passed unanimously to enact a Board Action Request (BAR) that will allow extension of COVID Child Care Leave for an additional 160 hours. Although it does not extend at full pay as the union requested, the passage of this BAR represents a major step forward for parents and caregivers who work for Hennepin County. The union members in AFSCME locals representing Hennepin County workers had been campaigning actively for full pay.

Ronisha Buckner, who is a mother of one, works as human services representative and is sergeant of arms with AFSCME Local 34 said, “After a month-long campaign including meetings, letters, emails and call-ins to county commissioners and Administrator David Hough, two press conferences; a car caravan and testimony by multiple AFSCME mothers at meetings and before the board of commissioners, members of Hennepin County AFSCME have been successful in pressing Hennepin County to do the right thing. We are pleased that Hennepin County heard the voices of our workers and took action on the concerns we brought forward by passing this BAR today.”

Latonya Reeves, president of AFSCME Local 552 stated, “Hennepin County employees, specifically our mothers and fathers who work so diligently to keep the county running have won today! Thank you for sharing your stories and being brave enough to speak your truth.”

Irish Gauna, a mother of five and a member of AFSCME 2822 said, “Our children will be better educated at home because the caregivers will be less stressed, and financially more stable. Not 100% but it still helps a good deal. Thank you for allowing me to nurture my family and not worry about homelessness. All of our hard work serving the communities and speaking up about our rights has brought about this change.”

The AFSCME locals that represent workers in Hennepin County have been campaigning around issues that affect their members and the community since the pandemic began. Some of these campaigns included calling for libraries and other Hennepin County services to operate in ways that are safe for the workers and also for the public. One specific example was the campaign to stop curbside book pick up services that were endangering workers. They have also campaigned to keep workers receiving full pay while working from home, and to fight back against threats of layoffs. The passage of this BAR extending COVID childcare pay is a major win for the unions that comes on top of nearly a year of holding Hennepin County accountable through collective action by AFSCME members in Hennepin County.