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Governor's Committee on the Safety, Health and Wellbeing of Agricultural and Food Processing Workers Releases Recommendations

St. Paul - Today, the Governor's Committee on the Safety, Health and Wellbeing of Agricultural and Food Processing Workers released 13 recommendations after careful study and in keeping with the committee's objective to propose solutions for agricultural and food processing workers' safety, health, and wellbeing.

Since their first meeting in April 2021, the committee sought input from other organizations and leaders serving agricultural and food processing workers, including the Migrant Services Consortium. The recommendations are for state legislative changes and agency-level changes that address current piecemeal regulatory and enforcement responsibilities of state and local agencies.

The Committee's recommendations are focused on the following priority areas:

• Coordination and communications,

• Housing,

• Workplace safety, and

• Fair labor standards.

"The committee worked incredibly hard to understand the lived experiences of workers and their families, who are so critical to our state," said former Department of Employment and Economic Development Deputy Commissioner Hamse Warfa. "We could not have developed these recommendations without the voices and contributions of all the partners around the table."

"The pandemic has caused serious health and financial setbacks for many of our agricultural and food processing workers and their families," said Department of Agriculture Deputy Commissioner Andrea Vaubel. "The committee's recommendations offer long-term solutions for ensuring their health, safety, and overall wellbeing."

The Committee was formed in response to COVID exposing the challenges of agriculture workers. It began meeting twice a month in April 2021 to develop these recommendations, formed working groups and focused attention on recommending solutions for issues related to communication and coordination, housing, workplace safety, and fair labor standards. They will continue meeting and continue uncovering the challenging regulatory landscape that affects housing and workplace safety for agricultural and food processing workers.

"The inputs and feedback from those who participated in the discussions, and the richness of the information shared, allowed us, as a team, to reach suggestions and goals that must improve the living conditions of that important sector of our communities," said Rodolfo Gutierrez, Executive Director, HACER. "I learned that information and constant communication is relevant and extremely necessary for people who do not know about their rights and potential benefits, so we must work all together in guaranteeing that our suggestions, if accepted, are implemented the best way possible, that the information goes to each and every single worker in Minnesota, in a way that it is understandable, and culturally appropriate. That we must look for channels to deliver the messages in a timely way and in the best ways possible, to those who need to know them."

The 15-member committee is composed of stakeholders including agricultural employer groups, labor, community groups, and state agencies, co-chaired by Deputy Commissioner Andrea Vaubel of MDA and former Deputy Commissioner Hamse Warfa of DEED. Members include:

• Erik Zabel, Minnesota Department of Health Epidemiologist and Program Director, Center for Occupational Health and Safety

• Nicole Blissenbach, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Labor and Industry

• Kiza Olson, CHS Administrator

• Sarah Berry, Public Health Director, Waseca County/CHS Administrator, Le Sueur-Waseca Community Health Board

• Rena Wong, Director of Organizing, UFCW 663 Director of Organizing

• Jim Gleb, President, UFCW 1189

• Dan Glessing, President, MN Farm Bureau

• Gary Wertish, President, MN Farmers Union

• Tamara Nelsen, Executive Director, MN Agrigrowth Association

• Rodolfo Gutierrez, Executive Director, HACER

• Emilia Gonzalez Avalos, Executive Director, Unidos MN

• Colin Laffey, Attorney, Agricultural Worker Project

• Stephanie Low, Executive Director, Community Health Services

DEED is the state's principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. For more details about the agency and its services, visit the DEED website, the JoinUsMn.com website, or follow us on Twitter.

 

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