In a breakthrough for members of AFSCME Local 1307 who are fighting to improve conditions where they work, Minnesota Department of Human Services commissioner Lucinda Jesson says she will freeze administrative hiring at Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center; personally oversee a staffing review; and make sure the center hires more full-time, direct-care staff. Her pledge came after she met privately April 15 with 75 union members for nearly two hours.
AFSCME members told Jesson and deputy commissioner Anne Barry that a shortage of human service technicians, a crushing amount of mandatory overtime and double shifts, and an increase in client violence are endangering care and safety for patients and staff.
Short-staffing makes it impossible for front-line workers to reliably schedule their hours, weekends, holidays, and vacation time, members said, compromising their health and family lives.
“If I lose my family, what do I need my job for?” asked Dominic Make, an HST at Anoka.
“Oh my gosh, you have to have more people,” Jesson told workers. “That’s very clear. I cannot imagine doing what some of you have described.”
After saying several times that workers will not face retaliation for speaking up, Jesson told them: “We should not be making you choose between your family and your job.”
The meeting with Jesson and Barry came three weeks after AFSCME members — tired of getting stonewalled by local administrators — held a similar meeting with key legislators March 27.
At that meeting, workers shared their sacrifices, frustrations, and hopes about conditions at the mental health hospital. They told legislators the gory details about assaults on staff and patients, excessive work hours, and hostile and unresponsive behavior by administrators.
State Representative Jim Abeler told workers they are dealing with “intolerable working conditions.”