Citing ongoing changes in the state, if not the world, when it comes to worker’s compensation benefits, a Minnesota state representative realizes that change should occur sooner rather than later. Rep. Rick Hansen is sponsoring a bill to amend existing labor laws that cover workers plying their trades in the food processing and agricultural industries.
Deemed the “sleepy area of state law,” regulations for labor standards have been largely inactive in their enforcement. The proposed bill, HF70, would implement considerable adjustments. Hansen had previously help to pass similar statutes in 2007.
Language in the current Packinghouse Workers Bill of Rights mandates that newly hired meatpacking plant workers receive their paperwork in English and Spanish. The new bill would add poultry processing employees receiving paperwork in the worker’s native language.
Protections would expand as well. New employees would receive much-needed information when it comes to workers’ compensation insurance upon being hired. That provision would also apply to migrant workers. Employers who violate employment terms would receive court-ordered fines from the Department of Labor.
The bill has the backing of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1189, the union that represents food processing employees statewide. As with any piece of legislation, opposition exists, with detractors claiming that the bill would do significant harm in impeding the state’s ability to stay competitive in the industry.
Following approval by the House Labor and Industry Finance and Policy Committee, the bill now goes to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.