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State lawmakers, meatpacking workers announce new legislation to improve safety on the job

Minnesota lawmakers and meatpacking workers from Austin, Worthington and St. Cloud announced new legislation Wednesday to improve safety on the job for the men and women employed by meat packing and food processing plants. 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. The “Minnesota Safe Workplaces for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers Act” is authored by Rep. Dan Wolgamott of St. Cloud, who spoke further about the legislation from St. Paul…

House Speaker Melissa Hortman stated that the legislation will enable every worker in Minnesota to go to a safe working environment…

The proposal would create 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.  The proposal would also include a section dedicated to addressing and preventing COVID-19 outbreaks that have occurred at factories in Minnesota. It 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; routinely clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces, workstations, and training rooms; and provide paid leave to all meat and poultry processing workers to recuperate from an illness, injury or to care for an ill family member.  

Equity-centered worker protections 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.

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