St. Paul, MN - Today, the House Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee heard testimony on Rep Wolgamott’s legislation to improve safety on the job for the men and women employed by meat packing and food processing plants - the Minnesota Safe Workplaces for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers Act (HF 800). The committee advanced the legislation as amended on a party-line vote of 8-5, referring it to the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee.
“I’m excited this lifesaving legislation successfully passed the first committee hurdle and is one step closer to being signed by the Governor,” said Rep. Wolgamott (DFL - St. Cloud) “No one should have to choose between feeding their families and working in unsafe conditions.”
The proposal would provide paid leave to all meat and poultry processing workers to recuperate from an illness, injury or to care for an ill family member. This bill also creates a brand new “Workers’ Rights Coordinator'' position housed within the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) dedicated to enforcement and compliance. This individual would be given the ability to investigate and prosecute violations of workers’ rights with the help of the attorney general, a district attorney, or any city or county attorney.
Building on the success of 2007’s Packinghouse Workers Bill of Rights, this legislation requires employers to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) at no cost to employees, allow meat and poultry processing workers adequate break time to sanitize and wash hands, and routinely clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces, workstations, and training rooms.
Equity-centered worker protections included in the bill would prohibit employers from discriminating or taking an adverse employment action against a worker, including the threat of reporting a worker's current or suspected immigrations status. The proposal also requires employers to post all the rights as well as training manuals in the language of fluency for workers every year.
More information is available on the committee’s webpage. Video recording of today’s hearing, including testimony from St. Cloud residents Mohamed Goni and Maria Elena Gutierrez, will be made available on the House Public Information YouTube channel.