Minn. Teamsters Help Expand Workers Comp for COVID-19

Minnesota Teamsters joined with eight other unions in the state to push for the enactment of a new law this week that guarantees workers compensation and full health coverage for first responders and other frontline workers who come down with coronavirus.

Previously, workers had to prove that any instance of COVID-19 was caused by their job – an impossible task. But Gov. Tim Walz signed a bipartisan bill late Tuesday that puts the onus on employers to prove it was not, thus ensuring greater coverage. It is a win for workers who are putting their lives at risk to serve the public, and could serve as a model for other states to follow.

The Teamsters in Minnesota represent about 1,900 first responders, most in law enforcement, corrections and health care.

Brian Aldes, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 320, which represents the lion’s share of those workers, said, “I am honored to have played a significant role in this legislation. In the event our frontline members are stricken with this terrible virus, the presumption will be that it was contracted on the job.”

Larry Yoswa, President of Joint Council 32, added, “These frontline and first responders now know that Minnesota has their backs in the event they contract COVID-19 and that the Teamsters Union respects and honors their commitment in this battle to eradicate this terrible virus.”

The new law expands eligibility for frontline workers, including doctors and nurses, firefighters, paramedics, police, long-term care workers, home health workers, correctional officers and child care providers by creating the presumption that a COVID-19 infection is work-related unless the employer is able to prove that infection happened elsewhere. The greater benefits will be in place until May 2021.

That said, Minnesota Teamsters aren’t done with their efforts. Aware that coronavirus could jeopardize not only the health but the financial standing of many, the union plans to push forward with further proposals that would aim to protect even more workers.