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Union Praises MN Response to Virus, But Monitors Bargaining Move

In addition to a paid leave provision, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order that waives the waiting period for insurance coverage for new state workers during the coronavirus crisis. (Adobe Stock)
In addition to a paid leave provision, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order that waives the waiting period for insurance coverage for new state workers during the coronavirus crisis. (Adobe Stock)
March 19, 2020

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The COVID-19 crisis has prompted decisions regarding state workers in Minnesota.

While it's not protesting any action right now, one of the state's largest unions has taken notice of one of the moves.

This week, Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order that, among other things, would give his office the temporary authority to bypass certain collective bargaining rules when state agencies are considering staffing decisions.

Lina Jamoul, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, notes that while that provision raised an eyebrow, nothing is being taken away just yet.

"It doesn't take away the principal underlying collective bargaining agreement," she states. "We're monitoring it and if there are any abuses of these powers, should (they) take place, we're ready to act."

The executive order stipulates that the state budget office work closely with union leaders should the need for staffing decisions arise, such as reassigning workers during the crisis.

In general, Jamoul says Walz has carried out a thoughtful response to the situation. She points to other provisions in the order, such as providing paid leave for state workers affected by COVID-19.

The order cites the need to protect the safety of state residents in making the decision on bargaining.

Jamoul says MAPE members across many agencies are stepping up to help the state address the crisis. That includes members who are on the front lines.

"We represent people in the infectious disease division who are testing COVID cases and are monitoring positive cases," she points out.

Jamoul says the union was able to successfully negotiate overtime pay guarantees for those workers, and it is trying to do the same for staff in the state unemployment office as it deals with a spike in claims.

Disclosure: Minnesota Association of Professional Employees contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Livable Wages/Working Families, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN