We have TWO pandemic bonus pay proposals!

The attempt to get frontline workers their bonus pay this fall utterly failed after the democratic process was stalled by some good old passive aggressive Minnesota politics.

“I consider myself a frontline essential worker that has been excluded from the Republican proposal for frontline essential worker pay,” said Dwight Gaddis, a retail grocery worker at Kowalski’s and member of UFCW Local 663. “It is now clear to me that they never had any intentions of including all essential frontline workers. Instead, they wasted our time choosing to play politics instead of taking care of us, the workers who keep putting their lives on the line on a daily basis.”

The Frontline Worker Pay Working Group, which began meeting in late July to figure out how to disburse $250 million to Minnesota’s frontline workers in pandemic bonus pay, participated in what was most likely their last meeting yesterday. Workers and legislators responded in a press conference.

Read more about the proposals and reactions from workers here

GOP Karens thank frontline workers by not listening to them

I have to say that I saw all of this coming back in July when meetings began. We’ve been in a pandemic for 19 months and I’ve been watching this working group receive testimony and publicly debate for three of those months. Not only is it my job to keep up on all things worker-related but this matters to me because my family is full of essential workers.

We all know $250 million is not enough, we know Republicans in our government have been putting people’s lives at risk, and we know that we love our nurses. We know that workers will continue to be on the frontlines, and that the pandemic isn’t over. We know calling workers heroes is not sufficient recognition of their labor, and to many it’s a slap in the face when their workplace offers them the bare minimum of protection in the face of a deadly virus. A financial thank you is a tiny step toward what’s really needed—widespread changes in working conditions that improve the lives of everyone in our community. 

The debate surrounding risk and eligibility was going to be tough, and I worry it will only become worse as the legislature reviews the language and more opinions are added to the mix. One thing’s for sure: although I find myself comfortably disagreeing with them from a distance, I would not want to be on the other end of a debate with what I’ve nicknamed the Karens of the GOP: Senators Karin Housley and Mary Kiffmeyer and Representative Ann Neu Brindley. Can you imagine? Crafting them the wrong coffee beverages, risking a request to speak with my manager followed by a detailed 1-star review tanking our reputation and sending the shop into financial distress...

Senator Erin Murphy mentioned that when she started in the legislature, the two parties came together at a “great political risk” to overrule the governor’s veto to make sure there was funding to rebuild Minnesota’s transportation system after the 35W bridge collapse. She said she thinks that party doesn’t exist anymore, and that Republicans are purposefully obstructing the democratic process.

Our elected officials, no matter what party they’re in, no matter what level of government, should be taking political risks right now. Workers are risking their actual lives so they can pay their bills and survive. Why can’t our representatives and leaders do the same if not more? After all, it’s their job.

MinnPost writer Peter Callaghan (@CallaghanPeter) who has also been following the working group, sums up my feelings in one tweet:

What is your hope for the proposals? How do you want your labor recognized? Where are you finding hope right now?

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Our employers and our government will not save us. We are each other’s harvest.