FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 21st
Contact: Isabela Escalona, CTUL, 708-557-1119, firstname.lastname@example.org
Josh Keller, SEIU, email@example.com
Frontline Workers Praise Minneapolis City Council Move to Establish Downtown Workers Council to Ensure Workers’ Voices are Heard
Frontline workers who have keep city running during COVID push for way to make sure the voices of working people are heard at City Hall
MINNEAPOLIS– Frontline workers spoke out Thursday as the Minneapolis City Council began the process to start a Downtown Workers Council Thursday at the Public Health & Safety Committee. The council will consist of workers across sectors including food service, cleaning, security and more who will develop recommendations for the city regarding workplace safety through the pandemic.
Directing staff in the Labor Standards Division of the Civil Rights Department will work with the Workplace Advisory Committee to form a Downtown Workers Subcommittee, to identify options for safeguarding the health and safety of the downtown workforce as it returns from shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to report back to the Public Health and Safety Committee with initial recommendations no later than July 31, 2021.
Gloria Estrada Moreno, a restaurant worker and member with Centro de Trabajadores Unidas en Lucha (CTUL) said that “As a restaurant worker downtown, it is important that workers have a voice in the workplace to decide our health and safety standards. The restaurant I was working at closed down because of the pandemic. I never received my paid sick and safe time. I’m waiting for downtown to open back up but in a way that is safe for all: workers, customers, everyone.”
Dan Scoggins, a 30-year Security Officer who works in Downtown Minneapolis and is a Steward and Executive Board member of SEIU Local 26, shared why it is so critical to have essential workers’ voices at the table.
“Security officers and janitors are essential workers. We have been working all through the pandemic, and when Covid strikes our families, we have the double burden of managing the illness and being put out of work on quarantine. Twice this year I have been out of work due to sick family members. If we want people to keep each other safe, we need to be paid when we are quarantined by our employers,” said Scoggins. “In order for Minneapolis to work, we need the input of those who work downtown to be heard. I am glad the City Council is starting the process to engage with these downtown workers to hear from our experience – not just our bosses and huge corporations –so the city can safely re-open.”
As the economy reopens across the state, frontline essential workers, primarily Black and Brown, take significant risks to put food on the table for their families and keep the economy moving. While the Governor has mandated that all businesses create a COVID preparedness plan, and that workers be consulted in creating it, there is still a tremendous lack of solid safety protocols and essential workers are bearing the brunt.
Throughout COVID workers have been forced to decide between working in unsafe conditions or putting their jobs at risk when they speak out or attempt to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves, their families and health of the general public.
Earlier in the pandemic a statewide forum was held to hear from workers about their experiences. Over a dozen workers from different industries shared stories of having insufficient PPE, being told to stay home from work but not receiving any pay, being forced to work in close proximity with others and not having sufficient time to wash hands or sanitize properly. They also spoke about specific concerns in the construction industry, in food and retail as well as childcare industries.