MinnPost will be regularly publishing profiles of candidates running for Minneapolis City Council. Up today: Aisha Chughtai, running for the open seat representing Ward 10. Also in the Ward 10 race so far: Chris Parsons, Alicia Gibson, David Wheeler, Katie Jones, and Steven Frich.
Being a local union organizer, Aisha Chughtai has some experience lobbying members of the Minneapolis City Council. Now, she wants to be one of them, joining the race in Ward 10 to replace Council Member Lisa Bender, who has decided not to seek reelection after two terms.
“The stakes are incredibly high for renters, people in poverty, working-class people, the Black, brown and indigenous people of this city,” said the 23-year old Chughtai, who works for Service Employees International Union Minnesota State Council. “We can’t wait any longer for a leader.”
Growing up, her family experienced housing instability, which is one of the reasons she’s prioritized the issue in her campaign. “It’s my guiding value; housing anchors everything,” she said.
Chughtai has volunteered to help at homeless camps and is heartened by the community response to the crisis. But she believes the responsibility shouldn’t fall on neighbors but a coalition of federal, state, county, and city programs to curb homelessness. “Leaving people unhoused is a choice,” said Chughtai, lamenting what she calls a “lack of political will.”
Instead, said Chughtai, unhoused people’s major interaction with the government often comes via law enforcement. “Police are not equipped to deal with that, that’s gonna lead to escalations,” she said.
That’s one of the reasons why Chugthai has also cited reforming Minneapolis’ public safety system as a priority. She would like to see specialized personnel like social workers and emergency service responders handle matters like domestic calls and noise complaints.
Chughtai also wants to reform workers’ rights in Minneapolis. She advocated for the $15 minimum wage passed by the city, and If elected, says she would focus on enforcing paid sick time laws and adding “fair scheduling” rules that would prohibit a manager from making inconsistent schedules for workers, which makes attending to certain family needs, like child care, more difficult.
“Low-wage workers, Black and brown women, they are the backbone of our economy,” she said. “Health and homecare workers, frontline workers, educators, retail workers, window washers, security officers and janitors.”
Candidate snapshot: Aisha Chughtai
Occupation: SEIU organizer
Favorite place in Minneapolis: Pimento Jamaican Kitchen. “Not only do I love their patties, but they were a crucial hub of organizing and mutual aid this summer, working tirelessly to make sure everyone’s needs were met during the pandemic and during the uprising. That kind of community spirit is exactly why I love Ward 10 so much.”
Political or civic experience: Campaign manager for Congresswoman Ilhan Omar; worked on campaigns for Erin Murphy for Governor, Raymond Dehn for Mayor, and Bernie Sanders for President; Take Action Minnesota political coordinator; Vice Chair of Congressional District 5 DFL; helped found the Muslim Caucus of the Young Democrats of America; Whittier Solidarity Network, Pimento Relief Service.
One-sentence reason for running: “I am running because the stakes are incredibly high today for renters, for people living in poverty, for Black, brown, and Indigenous people, and we cannot wait any longer for a leader who will fight alongside our community for policies that leave no one behind.”