Essential Workers with SEIU Praise Introduction of Emergency Leave Bill in Minnesota House

SAINT PAUL – Essential workers in Minnesota who are members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) praised the introduction of a Minnesota House bill that would provide emergency paid leave if Minnesotans have to miss work to quarantine after contracting or being exposed to COVID-19. HF41, chief authored by Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope), would provide 100 hours of emergency paid leave to full-time workers who have missed work because they quarantined after COVID exposure. The bill also allows paid time if a family member contracts COVID-19 or if schools are closed related to the pandemic. 

Screen Shot 2021-01-12 at 11.00.46 AMNaomi Zeiss, a Registered Nurse at HealthPartners and member of SEIU Healthcare MN, shared why this bill would be so important for healthcare workers across the state. 
“Healthcare workers have been praised as heroes throughout this pandemic, but as we’ve been working tirelessly to keep Minnesotans healthy we have often had to struggle to get the support we deserve. Despite our advocacy, healthcare workers exposed to COVID still have to use our PTO or sick time, or go unpaid, if we are exposed to COVID,” said Zeiss. “If an employee has to quarantine after an exposure but doesn’t yet have symptoms or if a child cannot attend school or childcare due to a Covid exposure and a parent has to stay home, we have to use vacation time or go unpaid. We are only being allowed to use our accrued sick time if we or a household member is exhibiting symptoms of Covid. We are working in a pandemic with less staff and higher stress than ever before.” 
 
“HealthCare workers should not be financially penalized for being honest and reporting exposure,” Zeiss continued. “I am hopeful all of the elected officials who have praised our work will put some action behind their words in order to make up for where employers have unfortunately let essential workers down. This bill, especially the provision of retroactive pay for people who were forced to use personal time or go unpaid earlier in this pandemic, is something that would help thousands of families across Minnesota.”
Elia Starkweather, a janitor and member of SEIU Local 26, talked about losing a co-worker to COVID and the urgent need for action to protect Minnesotans.
“Throughout this pandemic essential workers have risked our health and safety to keep our state running. My Union, SEIU Local 26, has seen four members die and over 650 members dealing with COVID. One of the deaths was my co-worker and friend Lorenzo Palma. We are tired of being treated like numbers instead of people,” said Starkweather. “Our coworkers are like family, and when essential workers like us get exposed to COVID, we shouldn’t be punished by having to use our paid time off, or worse, not getting any pay while we quarantine. Employers should already be paying emergency leave, but too many are not, so I am glad to see our legislature step up and try to support working families across Minnesota.” 
 
Laura Carpenter, a food service worker in the Minneapolis Public Schools and member of SEIU Local 284, spoke about how this bill would help school employees and families across the state. 
“Working families have been doing so much during this pandemic to keep each other and our state safe. As a school employee, I know we all want to be back at school as soon as we safely can, but right now the policies in place mean that people who do get COVID are forced to choose between doing the right thing and quarantining or keeping the paycheck they need to support their families,” said Carpenter. “Minnesotans have stepped up during this pandemic and I’m glad to hear that our legislators are working to pass laws to support essential workers. This bill is common sense and I hope it is passed immediately with overwhelming support.”
SEIU members plan to push their elected officials to take action and pass this bill as soon as possible to provide much-needed support for essential workers across the state.
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