Fed Up MN Front-Line Workers Testify on Bonus Pay
Thursday, February 10, 2022
Frontline workers from several industries shared emotional testimony yesterday as Minnesota lawmakers sought compromise on a plan to compensate them with bonus checks.
A House committee advanced a plan which would provide one-time payments of up to $1,500 to more than 650,000 workers, including health care professionals, educators and food-service staff who fall under a capped income.
Chrissy Gamst is a caseworker at the Moose Lake Correctional Facility. She said when COVID outbreaks have surfaced at the prison, staff have had to juggle overlapping roles.
"Essentially, what is happening is, the healthy are covering for the sick until the healthy become sick and the sick become healthy. It's just a circle of taking care of one another."
Chrissy Gamst, corrections security caseworker at the Moose Lake Correctional Facility and a member of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, said she had to work extra shifts as a corrections officer.
Some from other fields noted how not being able to work remotely has affected their mental health, including dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The bill moves to another committee in the DFL-led House. Republicans also support bonus checks but have wanted to limit the recipient pool to health care workers.
Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, described how frustrating it has been to keep telling members a final agreement among policymakers has been out of reach. She also talked about how hospital workers have isolated themselves from their families to protect them from COVID-19.
"You don't have to call me an angel, you don't have to call us heroes," Turner asserted. "But what we would like is just a little recognition for the work that we continue to do."
Debate over the payments, which has lingered for several months, comes as lawmakers hold broader discussions on how to make use of the state's projected budget surplus of more than $7 billion. If the House plan wins approval, it would cost $1 billion to issue the checks.
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