AFSCME Letter to Governor Walz on Extended Peacetime Emergency Powers

AFSCME Letter to Governor Walz on Extended Peacetime Emergency Powers

June 10, 2020

Honorable Governor Tim Walz,

On behalf of the 43,000 members of AFSCME Council 5, we want to extend a heartfelt “thank you” for your decisive actions and those of your Administration as we work together to improve the lives of Minnesotans, make our communities safe and healthy, and ensure that working people are truly heard. You have made sure that labor unions and other stakeholders are at the decision-making table and we look forward to our continued partnership. 

The Legislature will soon debate the extension of your peacetime emergency powers. We feel this conversation should not be rooted in political ideology or personal ambition by few in the Legislature, but by science, fact, and logic. We support the extension of your emergency powers simply because our state, local and non-profit sector workforces are the best in the nation and are well-prepared to carry out the mission of defeating COVID-19, protecting public health, and rebuilding our communities.

Since you declared a peacetime state of emergency in light of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 13, 2020, you:

•Created a new COVID-19 paid leave policy for our entire state workforce, which was one of the first of its kind in our country;

•Placed a moratorium on evictions so that all Minnesotans can have a sense of housing stability at a time of significant unemployment, housing insecurity, and limited access;

•Moved K-12 public schooling to virtual settings to protect the lives of children, their guardians, and our communities;

•Increased protections for those who have served our nation in the Armed Forces living in veterans homes across our state;

•Enhanced the income security of unemployed Minnesotans by being one of the first states in the nation to extend Unemployment Insurance to independent contractors and made sure our UI laws extended the length of such benefits and the additional $600/week payments on top of Minnesotan’s UI benefits;

•Protected workers by signing an Executive Order to ban employer retaliation against employees who voice concerns about their workplaces being unsafe and dangerous;

•Ensured that federal economic stimulus checks to individuals being served by the various programs of the MN Department of Human Services would not be negatively impacted in terms of eligibility; and

•Activated the National Guard to provide free COVID-19 testing to any Minnesotan.

This pandemic is an ever-evolving situation and will require constant reevaluation and action by you, the Administration, unions, our state and local government workforce, and workers in the non-profit and private sectors. Extending the peacetime state of emergency allows you to continue taking the necessary steps to make sure Minnesotans stay safe and healthy. An extension will also ensure that the Executive Orders already in place, as described above, remain in effect and that you will continue to have the flexibility to respond quickly to needs that arise across our state.  

We support the Legislature extending your peacetime powers and stand with you for the benefit of the working people of our state.

Julie Bleyhl

Executive Director

AFSCME Council 5