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Proposal to provide hourly airport employees a health insurance stipend heads to House Floor

Samantha Diaz, political director at SEIU Local 26, tells the House Labor and Industry Finance and Policy Committee Tuesday of her support for HF4818, to provide health and welfare benefits to private employees at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Rep. Kaela Berg sponsors the bill. (Photo by Michele Jokinen)
Samantha Diaz, political director at SEIU Local 26, tells the House Labor and Industry Finance and Policy Committee Tuesday of her support for HF4818, to provide health and welfare benefits to private employees at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Rep. Kaela Berg sponsors the bill. (Photo by Michele Jokinen)

Low-wage workers play a critical role in keeping the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport one of the best in the nation, yet they are uninsured at a rate three times higher than the national average, according to Rep. Kaela Berg (DFL-Burnsville).

“Not only are taxpayers subsidizing this industry directly, but airport workers that make this work possible are not reaping any of the benefits and are forced into subsidized health care,” she told the House Labor and Industry Finance and Policy Committee Tuesday.

Berg sponsors HF4818, which, as amended, would require an airport employer to provide an employee who enrolls in a health benefits plan, at least $4.98 per hour to help cover the cost of minimum essential health coverage. The bill was approved on a 6-5 party-line vote and sent to the House Floor.

If the employee doesn’t buy into the employer’s offered health plan, that employee wouldn’t receive the supplemental stipend.

House labor panel considers HF4818 4/2/24

“This bill is about getting an employer contribution for (the workers) to be able to buy into the employer-based health plan,” said Berg, who has been a union flight attendant for 19 years.

Rep. Joe McDonald (R-Delano) said the bill would add millions of dollars in costs for employers at the airport and could discourage businesses from locating there.

“For those who fly … the cost of a donut, to a cup of coffee, to a piece of candy bar, (is) very expensive,” he said. “So (Berg’s) bill will increase the cost significantly and could damage the hub that we have at the Minneapolis airport and the beauty that it is.”

Rep. Isaac Schultz (R-Elmdale Township) questioned why the bill is only focused on the airport and not the state. He offered two amendments — one not adopted and one withdrawn — to expand the bill to include colleges and universities and the entirety of the state’s government.

“I want to just kind of point out the irony that it’s only this one particular location, despite the challenges that we’ve heard even today about immigrant workers across the entire state facing challenges like this,” he said.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission would enforce, investigate and issue penalties for violations.


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