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This week in labor news
Essential workers rally downtown, and healthcare workers call for an end to the staffing crisis. Also, why did the president visit Minnesota?
“I’m tired of seeing and knowing that we have all this money...and they decide not to give it to the essential workers,” said Ignacia Ambriz, a worker at Sam’s Club who has been involved with CTUL since 2008. “Why are the big guys giving themselves a raise if they’re not doing what we’re doing? We’re here working 14...16 hour days, we’re doing the job of three people. Sick or not, we are there. Giving us essential pay or not, we are there.”
Underneath sparkling holiday tree lighting at the foot of downtown Minneapolis skyscrapers, essential workers rallied, demanding Minnesota decision-makers protect workers, get them their pandemic bonus pay. Governor Walz will most likely not call a special session to get money in the hands of workers before the regular legislative session starts at the end of January because the GOP threatened to remove Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.
🎥 Several cable news outlets covered the rally, check out KARE11’s segment. If you like our newsletter that centers all news from the worker’s perspective, please share with your friends and network!
Shaun Laden, President of MFT 59 ESP (@MFT59), said they’re seeing a lot of staffing shortages. In their contract negotiations, they’ll be fighting for a liveable wage for ESPs, or education support professionals. “The opportunity we had to work together with decision-makers and workers has really been lost,” said Laden. “In our licensed teacher chapter, we’re seeing unprecedented resignations, retirements, people leaving in our ESP chapter. We have hundreds of openings.”
📣 You and your friends can write to the Minneapolis and St. Paul city councils to demand worker protections be included in the city budgets.
🏥 Healthcare workers request to bargain with executives
Cliff Adams, a nursing station technician at UMN Fairview Riverside Masonic Children’s Hospital, navigates safe and unsafe working conditions every day.
“One example being, my unit within the hospital is a 24-bed unit. We are an oncology and hematology unit...we deal with cancer and certain transplants among other things,” said Adams. “Because we were so critically short staffed the other day, we could barely occupy 16 of those beds as the caregiver to patient ratio wasn’t adequate to safely provide care to a full unit. That meant that 8 beds—8 kids—did not have an opportunity to be properly cared for.”
On Tuesday, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota (@SEIUHCM) held a virtual press conference calling for better pay and working conditions to address the staffing crisis in the healthcare system. They’ve been told that there’s no money for raises. Fairview CEO James Hereford, who has been focused on cutting costs since before the pandemic, received a 91% raise and was compensated with a $3.6 million salary in 2020.
"Our short staffing crisis began before this pandemic,” said Adams. “Rather, the pandemic has simply highlighted this and many other issues within our healthcare system.”
Emilee Gresgowiak works at United Hospital in St. Paul as an oncology aide.
“Basically, all I can do is empty trashes and let nurses know when people are drowning…having codes and rapids and struggling to survive through their traumas,” said Gresgowiak.
Brenda Hilbrich, Executive Vice President of SEIU Healthcare MN, expressed her concerns for workers and patients. “At this point, there isn’t any action, and if there isn’t any action, I worry how much worse things will get,” said Hilbrich.
🇺🇸 Speaking of decision-makers…Biden spends first trip to MN as president praising infrastructure deal
Also on Tuesday, President Biden visited Dakota County Technical College, where he made remarks about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, calling it a “blue collar blueprint to rebuild America.” He praised programs like DCTC’s that train the country’s workforce. Sarah Riviere-Herzan, a student in the Heavy Construction Equipment Technology program, introduced the president and talked about her dream of owning a construction company and hiring all women employees.
In a statement about the visit, Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy said Minnesota’s labor movement stands with him and his deals. “It’s legislation that working people need right now.”
The Building Trades Council President also released a statement:
🎵 Enjoy this workers’ rights themed #SpotifyWrapped.
🎁 We’re making a list…
As we approach the end of the calendar year, we’re reflecting on the best labor moments of 2021. If you’d like to contribute to our list, let us know!
Sending you warm wishes as the temperature drops. We are each other’s harvest.