Publish date:

Hennepin County slammed for treatment of sidelined clerical workers

This comes after the closure of libraries and service centers due to coronavirus.

Hennepin County leadership are facing demands to end what's being called a “dangerous work or debt” mandate for hundreds of lower-wage library and service center workers. 

According to a release from the local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union, the affected employees — who can no longer work as of Sunday — have been told they can either go on unpaid leave or be reassigned to "high-risk public-facing" jobs instead.

The problem with the unpaid leave option, the union says, is that the workers "are being forced to use up personal leave balances," go unpaid and apply for unemployment, or "consent to go into a negative leave balance," which they'd end up owing the county if they're laid off. 

As for the job reassignment option, AFSCME says it would force the employees to work in local hotels housing homeless — some with coronavirus symptoms — during the pandemic. 

Additionally, there are only 50 available positions in the hotels, according to the release.

AFSCME says the workers, who are "some of the lowest paid in the County," were given very little notice about their options, and have not received answers to "basic HR questions around unemployment eligibility, continuation of benefits, or what would happen when the allowable leave balances ran out."

The union is demanding the following from Hennepin County:

  • "Immediately stop or delay" the reassignment policy requiring employees to choose between "high-risk" work and using their personal leave 
  • Provide remote work or full paid leave for "the entirety of the COVID 19 pandemic"
  • Provide double hazard pay and protective gear for workers who choose to be reassigned to hotels and other sites housing the homeless 
  • Keep non-essential buildings closed until "they can be made safe for our communities and workers"

Speaking to the Star Tribune about these initiatives, County Administrator David Hough said "we didn’t make this decision lightly."

Responding to the local AFSCME's charge that the moves are "retaliation" against workers for pushing to close libraries and service centers when "county officials didn’t want to do it," Hough told the paper the county "can’t allow employees to work at home and get paid with taxpayer dollars if they have no work to do."

BringMeTheNews has reached out to Hennepin County for comment.

Next Up

Kirk Cousins

There's something different about Kirk Cousins, but what is it?

Cousins's "swag" has fueled a hot start to the season.

Cameron Dantzler

Cameron Dantzler tweets out frustration over playing time

The second-year corner has been benched while Bashaud Breeland continues to struggle.

Pizabay pizza

Chaska Papa Murphy's to temporarily close due to worker shortage

The closure is "due to a lack of employees and applicants across the company," the manager wrote.

Hailey Anderson Cumberland WI police

Authorities find body, vehicle in search for missing WI woman

Hailey Anderson was supposed to be travelling to Hibbing, but never showed up.

KAT, Towns

Karl-Anthony Towns sounds off on Wolves' constant 'instability'

Gersson Rosas' firing was the latest in a string of problem situations the Wolves have been involved with.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Duluth man arrested after police chase in stolen pickup truck

He was driving a vehicle that had been reported stolen in North Dakota.

pixabay tractor farm

1 killed in crash between car and tractor in western MN

First responders arrived and found the vehicle off the roadway, in a cornfield.

Stallings surveillance footage - screengrab - crop

New video, body cam footage shows police beating prone Jaleel Stallings

Stallings, who was acquitted, said he fired on the unmarked van not knowing officers were inside.

Bloomington Wentworth scene  - 2021-09-27 - J Nelson 2

Body in dumpster leads to police chase with young child in car

A 911 call said they saw someone place a body into a dumpster outside a Bloomington apartment complex.

st. paul tap - crop

SUV driver crashes into bar patio, injuring woman; man hurt in related shooting

Two men were arguing on the patio prior to the incident, witnesses said.

bicycle cyclist bike

Cyclist critically injured in hit-and-run in Plymouth

Police are seeking the public's help in locating the driver who fled.

ambulance, crash

Second person dies after head-on crash in Anoka County

The crash injured three others, including a 4-year-old boy.


Screen Shot 2020-03-06 at 10.31.25 AM

2 more metro restaurants closed after workers struck with COVID-19

This makes at least five coronavirus closures this week.

Caribou Coffee

Caribou Coffee workers to hold car rally demanding better working conditions

They say they don't have adequate coronavirus protections.

Hennepin County Government Center

Hennepin County will make Juneteenth a "floating" holiday

The board's decision will not add a paid holiday for county employees.

Minneapolis City Hall

Mpls. commits $5M to help small biz, renters and workers amid pandemic

The coronavirus gap funding program was announced Friday.

coronavirus, covid-19

Here's where COVID-19 is the most widespread in Hennepin County

Hennepin County has released a city-by-city comparison showing rising rates of the virus.

Thin ice

Hennepin sheriff issues thin ice warning amid warmer temps

This comes after two siblings fell through ice in Maple Grove.