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Working people are controlling their own destinies

Minneapolis workers have made gains because working people across our state and nation are demanding dignity and respect on the job.

Minneapolis fast-food workers used a February 2016 nationwide closure of Chipotle restaurants for food-safety briefings to illustrate their call for paid sick leave.
Courtesy of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change

July is an important month for tens of thousands of Minneapolis workers. Thanks to a local policy initiative, every working person in Minneapolis is now earning paid sick and safe time no matter where they work in the city. A similar ordinance in St. Paul is slated to fully go into effect in January, while Duluth is crafting its own earned sick and safe time policy as well. And now Minneapolis, following the example of cities across the nation, will be phasing in a $15 minimum wage.

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Worker protections and benefits didn’t appear out of thin air. Working people made gains only after years of grass-roots worker-led activism supported by the labor, faith, nonprofit, and small-business communities. Workers made gains because working people across our state and nation are demanding dignity and respect on the job. Workers made gains because working people banded together and decided to take control of their destinies.

Local officials took action in response to a wave of grass-roots activism demanding that communities implement policies to advance social and economic justice. We celebrate these wins as signs that our democracy can function at the local level, where government is closest to the people

Much-needed progress

William McCarthy
William McCarthy

These new local workplace policies will be life changing for tens of thousands of working people in these cities, especially for women and people of color. In fact, Minneapolis’ minimum wage increase will mean a pay raise for 42 percent of black workers, 54 percent of Hispanic workers, and 29 percent of working single mothers in the city. For a city with some of the worst economic disparities in the nation, this is much-needed progress.

Unfortunately, the recent surge in pro-worker policy victories on the local level, states under Republican control have begun to enact so-called “preemption” laws to stop paid sick time and minimum wage ordinances from going into effect. These fundamentally cynical laws limit the freedom of local communities to improve on state minimums and unfairly hold working people back. For example, the city of Fargo ran into North Dakota’s preemption law when it was prevented from raising their minimum wage to compete with Minnesota’s $9.50 rate.

Governor heard workers’ voices

This year in St. Paul, corporate lobbyists spent thousands of dollars and many months lobbying for a preemption law in Minnesota. But thankfully, working Minnesotans showed up for public hearings and debates to stand up for local control and the local worker-friendly policies they have worked so hard to achieve. Gov. Mark Dayton heard workers’ voices and vetoed the preemption bill. In his veto message, Dayton wrote, “this legislation interferes with local control, harms workers, and takes away the power of citizens to make positive changes in their communities.”

Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou
Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou

Dayton’s veto gives working people in cities and towns across our state the freedom to continue advocating for raising wages, paid sick and safe time, and for other workplace protections in their own communities. The working people leading these campaigns are telling powerful stories, stories of hard work and struggle. They’re also sharing their hopes to achieve the American Dream: through hard work, justly rewarded, in jobs that treat all workers with dignity and respect.

William McCarthy is president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO. Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou is president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

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