COVID-19: Statements

AFSCME Councils 5 and 65 Calls on Minnesota's Congressional Delegation to Fight for Additional Funding for State and Local Governments

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Minnesota’s Congressional Delegation, 

       Thank you for listening to our members’ concerns about federal funding for state and local governments and working with AFSCME Council 5 and 65 to secure $150 billion in grant funding for state and local governments, to be used for COVID-related expenses and additional assistance for education, child care, and more programs in the $2.2 trillion CARE Act. Collectively, our councils proudly represent more than 56,000 workers in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors who deliver critical public services that every Minnesotan can access. 

As you know, our local communities need more funding as businesses are closed, revenues arent coming in and the demand for public services continues to increase as more people become ill and require care. Im asking for your help again to request additional federal aid as Congress prepares another COVID-related aid package, including:

  • $200 billion more for state and local governments and the flexibility to use these grants and the $150 billion allocated through the CARES Act for necessary public services, including those that are not specific to COVID responses. This is essential as state and local governments continue to lose revenues that fund normal public services that communities rely on from trash removal and clerical operations to ensuring clean water. 
  • Increase the federal match to Medicaid known as FMAP by no less than 15 percentage points to ensure states can fund rising Medicaid caseloads without diverting resources from other critical services.
  • Protect workers on the front lines by: 1) passing into federal law an emergency infectious disease standard so front-line workers in all states are covered, and 2) getting all workers critical personal protective equipment (N95 masks, shields, gowns, gloves, hand sanitizer, etc.) and cleaning supplies (wipes, bleach, etc.) to be safe and directing the President to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate the production of necessary equipment and supplies and to prioritize their fair distribution.
  • Additional funding for the education state stabilization fund, child care, and other needs including infrastructure.

We are available to discuss the details and look forward to hearing back from you! 

In solidarity,  

Julie Bleyhl                                                                   Shannon Douvier  

Executive Director, AFSCME Council 5                    Acting Executive Director, AFSCME Council 65

State's Emergency Responders Ask State To Have Their Back

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

SAINT PAUL --  Members of the state’s emergency response community, including firefighters, police officers, nurses, corrections officers and other public health workers gathered today on the steps of the state capitol (a safe distance from one another) to ask the legislature to provide them with some much needed protection in their fight against the sweeping Coronavirus pandemic.  

Already dealing with a major shortage of personal protective equipment like masks, visors and gowns, the emergency responders are asking for a minor change in law that would protect them should they become infected. Currently, emergency responders who become infected are on the hook for their own treatment and must use their sick leave to cover any time spent in quarantine.  

A coalition of groups including the Minnesota Professional FireFighters, Minnesota Police & Police Officers Association, Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, Minnesota Nurses Association, AFSCME Council 5, AFSCME Council 65, Minnesota Licensed Practical Nurses, Minnesota Teamsters D.R.I.V.E., Teamster Local #320 and the Minnesota State Highway Patrol Troopers Association are behind the effort. 

With the legislature meeting on Thursday to address a number of Corona Virus related bills, the groups gathered to request that they make it presumptive that if an emergency responder contracts the disease that it was likely a result of their work, and as such, instantly eligible for workers compensation coverage.  

Scheduled to speak at the event are the Legislative authors, Sen. Jeff Howe (R-Rockville) and Rep. Dan Wolgamott (DFL-St. Cloud), St. Paul Fire Captain Chris Parsons, Kelley Anaas, a nurse who works in the new covid19 unit at Abbott and Ed Reynoso, whose union represents a broad spectrum of law enforcement and corrections officers statewide. 

“We chose careers that we knew didn’t come with the option of working from home,” Said Chris Parsons, a Captain with the St. Paul Fire Department and the president of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters Union.  “We have the backs of all Minnesotans, and, as such, are hopeful the Minnesota legislature will prove they have ours by approving this workers compensation presumption.” 

AFSCME Council 5 and Council 65 to State and County Leaders: Push Federal Government for COVID-19 Support

Sunday, March 22, 2020

"The current pandemic crisis of COVID-19 is straining the resources of local communities across Minnesota, jeopardizing our collective ability to safely deliver services in response.
Minnesotans need the federal government to step in and help ensure our counties, cities and communities can safely and efficiently respond. We are asking elected officials to support several programs and protections for working people that will help keep communities safe.

We urge you, on behalf of AFSCME Council 5, AFSCME Council 65, and all Minnesotans, to contact Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Tina Smith, and your Member of Congress and ask that they support workers in their local communities immediately."

Read the full statement at the link above.

AFSCME: Fiscal stabilization needed for state and local governments 

Friday, March 20, 2020

"The rapid and unprecedented economic downturn caused by COVID-19 will destabilize state and local government finances. We’ve got to go beyond FMAP to create a robust general assistance grant program to states and municipalities."

Get the full statement at the link above.

Joint statement from MAPE and AFSCME Council 5 on safety measures announced for state employees facing COVID-19 unknowns

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

MAPE Executive Director Lina Jamoul and AFSCME Council 5 Executive Director Julie Bleyhl released the following statement:

MAPE and AFSCME Council 5 members are Minnesotans first and state government workers second. We join our neighbors and other community members in this fight against COVID-19. Both personally and professionally, our priority is to support and serve our fellow Minnesotans.

As the COVID-19 global pandemic threatens many aspects of daily life, the hard work of Minnesota’s public sector employees ensures our state agencies continue to operate with minimal disruption to the vital services Minnesotans rely on.

MAPE and AFSCME Council 5 continue to meet with state and agency leadership during this unprecedented time to quickly respond to a crisis that extends far beyond the confines of our work. We are working to support our members so they can continue to provide the quality, reliable and vital services our neighbors rely on.

To protect wages, hours, benefits and other working conditions, we have secured the following provisions for state employees:

  • Guaranteed paid leave will be extended to all executive branch agency staff (Minnesota Statute 2019, section 43A.02, subdivision 22) who must be absent from work due to COVID-19 in order to care for themselves and their children due to school closures for the duration of the Governor's Emergency Executive Order 20-01.
  • The 35-day waiting period for new executive branch employees to be eligible for insurance has been suspended. All state executive branch employees with less than 35 days of service will now be eligible for health insurance coverage.

We also appreciate that Gov. Walz has announced financial provisions to help non-government workers across Minnesota cope with this pandemic. He issued an Executive Order to help ensure that workers who are not able to work as a result of COVID-19 have benefits available.

At a time when unparalleled actions to this pandemic have become the norm, we must also recognize the magnitude of Executive Order 20-07, which includes the waiving of select collective bargaining agreement provisions. These provisions represent decades of hard work and progressive governance, and this is a serious action taken in a time that requires bold leadership. We won’t stand in the way of the state’s powerful response to this crisis, but we won’t idly sit by if that power is abused. We have worked with the State to put a system in place to ensure these changes are used only to respond to COVID-19. Our job as a union is to make sure that during this worldwide crisis, Minnesota workers are still protected and safe at work.

This is a time for us all to come together and collaborate for our health and for our future, and for state agencies to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of employees, their families and the general public during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

# # #

Statement on Workers' Financial Security

Monday, March 16, 2020

Executive Director Julie Bleyhl released this statement this morning demanding that all Minnesota employees don't suffer financially during this crisis. The full statement is:

“AFSCME Council 5 is demanding that ALL employers in the State of Minnesota pay their workers in full during this time of crisis. We cannot leave the working-class to suffer further from COVID-19; We must all be united and work together to ensure that no worker has to choose between their lives and a paycheck. Your union family has your back and that of your families.”

Update on Minnesota Legislature

Monday, March 16, 2020

News out of the Legislature over the weekend indicates a significant slowdown in legislative work at the Capitol for at least the next month.

As a result, and in an effort to slow the spread of the virus and protect the health, safety, and welfare of our members/staff, we are canceling all member lobby days for the remainder of this Legislative session.

If future developments allow us to reschedule lobby days, we will communicate our decision to do so.

What to Expect from the Legislature:

  • Legislators will meet “On-Call”
  1. All regular schedules will change to allow legislative committees to meet in rooms large enough to accommodate adequate social distancing. 
  2. Legislation moving forward “will require House/Senate majority/minority leadership agreement before a full vote in either body.” 
  • Telework
  1. House & Senate Legislative staff will be working remotely where possible to monitor calls, emails, and schedules. They will not be available in person to assist the public. 
  2. You can continue to call & email your legislators and their staff and we encourage all members to do so. 
  • After April 14th
  1. The “On-Call” policy for Legislators meeting will last until at least April 14th which leaves just under 5 weeks of legislative work before end of session. 
  2. We will communicate any additional changes/announcements as we hear them.

Julie Bleyhl, Executive Director

AFSCME Council 5 Office Closure

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Members:

There is a potential case of COVID-19 among our staff. That staff person is in isolation and is currently being tested. To be safe and in the best interest of our employees and membership, we are closing all Council 5 offices until further notice. Effective immediately the office is closed. Executive Staff and Field Staff are available via cell, text and email.

Whether or not regional meetings are to be held around the state is up to local leaders. Staff will not be providing trainings due to potential exposure and information on regional meetings will be shared when available.

Protecting the health, safety, and welfare of all staff, members, and the public is our priority.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Julie Bleyhl, Executive Director

AFSCME Council 5 Response to COVID-19 Emergency Declaration

Friday, March 13, 2020

Governor Walz declared a public health emergency in our state. What does that mean?

The Walz Administration and the Minnesota Department of Health recommends:

1. Postponing and/or canceling events holding 250 or more people, including concerts, conferences, sporting events, rallies, etc.
2. Keeping K-12 schools open unless directed to close by the Department of Health.
3. Postponing and/or closing social events with less than 250 people in venues that cannot accommodate social distancing of 6 feet per person.
4. Postponing and/or canceling events with 10 or more people where the majority of the event’s participants are at a high risk for severe illness, including events held in retirement facilities, assisted living facilities, developmental homes, group homes for people with health conditions, etc.

MDH is working to ensure that health notices are being disseminated in various language. Documents in Spanish, English, Arabic, Somali, and Hmong are attached, as well as a sign that says “wash your hands” in 18 languages.

Please go to this website for more documents in other languages and for resources in American Sign Language.

AFSCME Council 5 represents roughly 43,000 employees across our state from a wide range of employment in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors in our bargaining units. Our members deliver critical public services that all Minnesotans benefit from.

We are urging all employers (public, private, and nonprofit) in the State of Minnesota to adhere to our values of health, safety, and welfare of all workers and to not punish workers for staying home when they are sick. Our members working for state agencies, higher education institutions, local governments, non-profit organizations, etc. often come in regular contact with the public —Their health, safety, and welfare must always be of the highest level of importance.

We are all justifiably nervous about what this pandemic means for our communities and workplaces. We have sent out several statements, social media posts, and email blasts and will continue to keep you all informed. We are all in this together. Stay safe, brothers and sisters.


Julie Bleyhl
Executive Director
AFSCME Council 5, AFL-CIO