AUSTIN, Minn.-Union meat packing and food processing workers and leaders apart from United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 663 the passage of frontline worker payments with lawmakers at their union hall on Wednesday at 3:30 pm
DFL State Sen. Erin Murphy, who represents St. Paul and Duluth’s DFL State Sen. Jen McEwen thanked workers for their tireless efforts during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and even dedicated the original bill Gov. Tim Walz signed into law to the union hall.
UFCW Local 663’s Director of Organizing Rena Wong said workers were pressuring lawmakers for nearly two years to be considered in the frontline worker payments.
Wong said GOP state lawmakers originally opposed the inclusion of retail, food processing and meat manufacturing but changed their minds after fierce lobbying from the union.
“Dozens and dozens of members testified at hearings live and in person. They rallied down at the capitol. They have held mass together, prayed together, just to get to this moment,” Wong said.
The event featured speeches that were translated from English to Spanish, and vice versa, from three union members that thanked fellow workers for fighting for what was earned.
Wong said the union’s next mission is to pass the Worker Safety Act, which she said will ensure employers are proving safe environments for workers across Minnesota.
“Guidelines are great but they are voluntary. What we really need for workers is enforcement, so that they go home the same way they came to work in the morning. Safe, healthy and in one piece to their families,” Wong said.
Local 663 represents nearly 17,000 workers in retail, meat packing, food processing, healthcare and other industries across Minnesota in Iowa.
UFCW represents 1.3 million workers nationwide, according to the union’s website.
To learn how you can sign up for frontline worker payments, click here.