Minnesotans went on strike, rallied and marched Monday to mark May Day – International Workers Day – and to call for progress on issues such as fair wages and fair treatment of immigrants.
Millions of people worldwide took part in actions commemorating May Day, which began in the United States in the 1880s as a campaign for the eight-hour day and spread to many other countries.
In Minneapolis, the events began with a strike by retail cleaners at the Home Depot store in northeast Minneapolis. The strikers are members of CTUL, Centro de Trabajadores de Lucha/Center of Workers United in Struggle. Joined by allies from unions and community groups, they demonstrated outside the store.
“We’re fighting for fair wages, benefits and the right to form a union without fear of retaliation,” said Elizabeth Mejia Campillo, a CTUL leader who is employed by Kimco, which has the contract to clean Home Depot stores. “We know that with a union we have a voice on the job to fight for the benefits and working conditions we deserve.”
Kimco pays poverty wages and has refused to accept workers’ demands for better working conditions, Mejia Campillo said.
The janitors announced they plan to attend the Home Depot shareholders’ meeting later this month to educate the company on the poor working conditions they face.
At noon, University of Minnesota workers held a rally to kick off their campaign for fair contracts covering 4,000 clerical, technical, health care, food service, janitorial and other employees.
The workers are members of AFSCME Locals 3260, 3800, 3801 and 3937 and Teamsters Local 320. Negotiations are getting underway for their 2017-2019 contracts.
“We know that each and every one of you are world class workers who make this university run,” Cherrene Horazuk, president of Local 3800, told the crowd.
“We are the backbone of this university,” said Brian Aldes, secretary-treasurer of Local 320. “We will stand together in solidarity and – brothers and sisters – we’re going to get the job done!”
Goals in bargaining include wage increases, six weeks of paid parental leave for all parents regardless of gender, expanded education benefits and “respect for our workers and the contributions we make to the university,” the unions said.
Also at noon, other organizations rallied at the state Capitol in St. Paul to call on lawmakers to resist the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration.
Later in the afternoon, the “Resist From Day One Coalition” planned to march from East Phillips Park to Federal Plaza in downtown Minneapolis. Stops along the way were scheduled to include an action at in support of workers organizing at Franklin Street Bakery, an action with striking fast food workers at Wendy’s on Franklin Ave., and a teachers’ union action on U.S. Bank.
University of Minnesota students planned a rally on campus Monday afternoon, then a march that would converge with the group walking from East Phillips Park.
"We're coming together as a community,” said Matthew Boyton with Students for a Democratic Society. "We're rallying people across the state to say that we stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters and recognize that they actually are a part of our community, that they contribute a whole lot to American society."
Other student rallies were scheduled at the University of Minnesota Morris and at Macalester College in St. Paul.