While many indicators show that we are coming out of an economic recession, that’s just not true for most working families who have yet to see a meaningful increase in income and wealth. That’s why it is so exciting that we are finally on the verge of passing a municipal minimum wage increase in Minneapolis that would help improve the lives of thousands of working people. Passing a strong municipal minimum wage increase would be just the beginning of putting more workers on a path to a voice in the workplace.
It’s been amazing to see the work done over the last several years to create a conversation in our local communities about workplace issues and expanding the scope of municipal influence on labor standards. Rooted in organizing, these issues are being taken up for the health and vitality of our local communities.
Much of this conversation has been led by those most affected — low income workers and workers of color. It is so important that workers and communities are engaged in the process and that changes are not just legislated. Without this wide participation, improving labor standards would not truly be an organizing tool that builds power for workers.
Here at the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, our work always has been centered on building power at the local level throughout our seven-county region. We are successful at this local level because we know best what is happening in our individual communities and we strive to set high standards for our members and our neighbors.
Together with our affiliates, we’ve helped organize new workplaces, strengthened local unions, expanded our market share in strategic spaces and raised standards across industries by leveraging local relationships. We’ve put workers on paths to family-sustaining jobs in our local communities based on partnerships with employers, education institutions, local governments, and community allies. We’ve focused on electing leaders at the local level who understand and advocate for working families and collective bargaining.
This great work currently is being threatened by Minnesota state legislators influenced by corporate interests. They want to take away local control from our cities and counties. More than two dozen bills that restrict local decision-making have been introduced in 2017 to date.
One of these bills (House File 600) specifically attacks labor standards. It would reverse gains on earned sick time and stop any minimum wage work in progress. It would have profound impacts, both known and unknown, on other labor standards and labor agreements that we have fought hard for and rely on at the local level to protect our own membership.
All the “preemption” bills are an attack on local democracy, but the attack on labor standards is particularly egregious and a shot straight at the bow of our unions. This power grab against local control is just another attack in the long line of corporate strategies to limit our influence.
In this current environment, and as we approach the 2018 elections, it is more important than ever that we are fighting for working families at every single level, including locally. We must protect local control and that will require union members from all corners of the movement to reach out to their state elected leaders.
Contact Governor Dayton’s office at 651-201-3400 and urge him to veto House File 600, which would block local minimum wage laws and overturn new sick-time ordinances recently passed in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou is president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.