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Notices of Possible Layoffs Worry MN State Workers

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Thursday, June 3, 2021   

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota has less than a month to adopt a new state budget to avoid a government shutdown. As talks continue, a key union is pushing back on layoff notices that were sent out with the deadline drawing closer.

This past weekend, roughly 38,000 state workers were issued notices that they could be forced off the job if state government isn't operating. The governor's office insists it's more of a formality as it hammers out details with legislative leaders.

Megan Dayton is the president of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, which represents 15,000 state employees. She said to their members, the notices didn't feel like a formality.

"It felt like an insult to the dedicated public servants who have given their lives," said Dayton, "given their careers and - especially during the last 15 months - given all their time and attention to the people of Minnesota."

She referred there to state employees, such as epidemiologists, who played a key role in Minnesota's response to the pandemic.

The state constitution requires a balanced budget by July 1. And state officials say layoff notices are required to go out a month ahead of time, if that scenario presents itself.

The Legislature could vote on a spending plan during a special session beginning June 14.

Dayton said while they're not concerned the final budget will include permanent layoffs, a temporary pause in work would be harmful because the state doesn't have back pay for these furlough situations.

"It would be completely unpaid," said Dayton. "And many of our employees - it's a public-sector family, myself included. So, in the event of a shutdown, we would go to absolutely zero income. "

There have been legislative attempts to incorporate back pay after a shutdown, but those efforts have failed. In the past 15 years, Minnesota has seen two various forms of government shutdowns.

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.


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