Skip to main content

AFSCME’s advocacy ensures Minnesota Frontline Pay program off to a great start

Photo credit: Getty Images

An AFSCME-endorsed special bonus program for hundreds of thousands of Minnesota’s front-line workers is off to a rousing start.

Last year, members of AFSCME Council 5 and Council 65, along with a broad coalition of unions, economic justice organizations, immigrant advocacy groups, and working people pushed the Minnesota legislature to use some of the funding from the American Rescue Plan to compensate front-line workers who are keeping the state running during the pandemic.

The Frontline Worker Pay effort was part of a larger effort to hold Minnesota elected officials accountable for promises to take care of front-line workers early on in the pandemic. That effort included advocating for 2021’s Emergency Leave for Essential Workers Act – a bill that would have compensated front-line workers for sick time they took while they were infected with COVID-19.

Though that bill failed to pass, the effort brought significant attention to the sacrifices that front- line Minnesota workers made and how many of them are recovering physically and financially from fighting the pandemic.

In hearings and in conversations with legislators, AFSCME members stressed how hard the pandemic was on them, and encouraged the legislature to use funding from the ARP – a law that AFSCME members nationwide fought for – for bonuses for all working people in Minnesota who served on the front lines.

In the end, the member’s hard work advocating for the Frontline Worker Pay program prevailed – and now Minnesota estimates roughly 670,000 workers are eligible for the special payments. Workers will split the $500 million allocated for the program. State officials estimate should amount to about $750 per eligible worker – though that number could change. The payments could reach as high as $1,500 per worker.

The state of Minnesota began accepting applications for the Frontline Worker Pay program last week and will continue to do so through July 22. Nearly 400,000 workers have already applied. Workers in 15 job sectors are eligible for the payments, including those in child care, corrections, emergency services, home care, schools and health care. A full listing of job sectors is available here.

Chris Ellis, a Council 5 member and dietary aide at the Good Samaritan Society, a group that provides housing and related services for senior citizens, said he “wasn’t sure if I can fully describe just how hard it is to do this job when we are so understaffed, so underpaid, and we had the burdens of COVID on top of it all.”

“We have workers in all sorts of jobs and sectors that went to work every day knowing that they could be exposed to COVID, and we all deserve to be recognized for our service,” Ellis said.

Deb Tauer, a licensed practical nurse and president of Council 65’s Minnesota LPN Association said, “Our leaders are finally recognizing the sacrifice front-line workers made to keep Minnesota safe. Many of our LPNs rented hotel rooms and purchased their own PPE (personal protective equipment) because we were afraid we’d expose our families to this virus.”

“The huge number of applications shows just how important it is to support front-line workers now and in the future,” said Tauer.

If you believe you may be eligible for Minnesota’s Frontline Worker Pay program, you can find out more information and apply here.

Minnesota’s Frontline Worker Pay program

Council 5 and Council 65 have created special pages on their websites to learn more about the Minnesota Frontline Worker Pay program. The state of Minnesota also has created a resources page.

Related Posts