Recent stories published by the Star Tribune about the MUL (“Did Urban League get paid twice?” April 13, and subsequent stories) have created a false specter of financial impropriety, have distorted the organization’s history in delivery of contracted services and, as a result, have undermined the reputation of a long-standing community organization.
MINNEAPOLISAs thousands of low-wage workers and allies demonstrate this week for a $15 per hour minimum wage, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members at Allina Hospitals ratified a new three-year contract that establishes a $15 per hour minimum wage for the first time for workers at seven hospitals across the Twin Cities region, including in Shakopee and Buffalo. “At a time when more and more jobs are low-wage jobs that cannot even begin to support a family, our new contract shows that a $15 per hour minimum wage is possible because we achieved it for all of our members at seven hospitals,” said Paula Lindquist, a scheduling coordinator at Buffalo Hospital. “We are an example of the power of workers coming together to improve wages, benefits, quality of services and the future of our communities.” “For lab assistants like me, this is our first union contract and I will see a $5 per hour raise to more than $15 per hour, and better benefits,” said Tigist Tefera of Abbott-Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, whose job classification joined SEIU Healthcare Minnesota last year. “This will mean a better life for us and our families, and all workers deserve the same.” The contract provides employment security protections as well as additional health and safety protections for workers. It includes a wage increase in every year of the contract for all members, an increase in Allina’s contribution towards the members’ pension plan, and a 25 percent increase in the amount of tuition reimbursement available to all members annually. The new agreement also takes a significant step towards equal pay for equal work for workers at Allina hospitals outside the metro region, the union said.“We provide the same excellent quality care and service to our patients in Owatonna as our fellow union members do in Minneapolis and Saint Paul,” said Deb Dodds, an environmental services aide at Owatonna Hospital, “so I am glad to see that we are closing the pay equity gap for hospital workers outside the metro area, but we have more progress to make.” Coming on the heels of a new contract for 3,000 hospital workers at eight other Twin Cities hospitals – including Children’s Hospitals and Clinics, Fairview Health Services, HealthEast Care System, North Memorial Health Care, and Park Nicollet Health Services (recently merged into HealthPartners) – over 99.5 percent of the workers in 16 hospitals covered by these contracts will have a $15 per hour minimum compensation. “This contract is a step forward for every union member, but there is a lot more that we need to do to improve patient care in our hospitals,” said Vivian Straumann, a licensed practical nurse at United Hospital in Saint Paul. “We will not stop raising the issue of staffing levels until we are satisfied that we have the right number of people to keep ourselves, our patients and our hospitals safe. Continue Reading
For some businesses along the Green Line light rail, the nearly two years of transit construction proved to be too much to keep operations steady. The light rail’s construction from 2012 to 2014 pushed some Stadium Village and Prospect Park businesses — like 56-year-old Campus Pizza and Pasta — too far below their bottom line, and many of the area’s storefronts cut costs and changed some of their business practices. But now, those businesses that survived the road work are bouncing back from the years of low sales and slow foot traffic that came with the construction.In order to stay open, many area businesses reduced their staff sizes and inventory to keep revenue flowing. Though Stub and Herbs has a loyal fan base and a 76-year-old legacy, owner Josh Zavadil said the business struggled through the two-year construction period. Zavadil said he restructured the property’s mortgage and cut back on some spending during the construction to cope with the restaurant’s dwindling business as a result of the area’s lack of foot traffic. The business relied heavily on customers from University of Minnesota hockey and football games, he said. Other businesses along the light rail resorted to hosting events with the hopes of drawing positive attention to a depressed area. While Art and Architecture Inc., an antique store in Prospect Park, didn’t struggle as much as other area businesses, manager Jodi Hohman said, morale in the area was low during the road work. “Everybody was down in the area,” she said. “People were closing up shop.” The antique store held a number of events, including “junk markets” — which are comparable to yard sales — to spur extra business, Hohman said. The removal of parking spots came with the light rail’s construction, and businesses that relied heavily on those spaces are still feeling the loss. During the construction, Paradigm Copies owner Gary Magee said his business on Washington Avenue Southeast removed some of its printing machines and shrank in size to reduce its rent cost. He said the store lost a lot of walk-in business and didn’t attract any customers. But now that the light rail is up and running, Magee said his storefront is more robust, and he expects its customer base to continue to grow. “I’m seeing a lot of positive signs,” he said. “We’re on our way to doing much better.” Few business owners in the area know their exact property values, but many said most of the land prices along the Green Line have gone up in recent years. And owners who own their own buildings instead of rent, like Textile Center in Prospect Park, say they are glad that they do. Nancy Gross, director of the center’s administration, said since the train started running last summer, the nonprofit has seen more people visit its gallery space, and its consignment store has had higher sales. On the Green Line light rail’s route, trains slowly turn onto University Avenue Southeast after the line’s Prospect Park stop — half of their windows facing the Textile Center. “There are lots of eyes on us,” Gross said. “We love it.” Continue Reading
In welcoming a very large crowd to its 2015 Entrepreneur Awards ceremony, held Saturday, April 18, at the Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis,Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) founder and CEO, Mihailo “Mike” Temali, described the evening as an opportunity to celebrate Twin Cities area entrepreneurs and the long hours, sweat, tears, sacrifices, and accomplishments that they seldom get credit for. Over the course of the evening, 14 businesses and the 19 entrepreneurs who started and run them were recognized.
A transportation bill that places heavy emphasis on roads and bridges — and, its critics say, neglects metro area transit needs — is headed for the House Floor.The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday approved an amended version of HF4, the omnibus transportation funding and policy package that proposes to spend $6.6 billion on the state’s transportation system over the next two years and makes Minnesota’s roadways its top transportation priority.The bill proposes to redirect existing revenue streams toward funding roads and bridges. Those measures — the proposed shift of more than $410 million in revenues from vehicle-related sales taxes over the next two years out of the General Fund — were amended out of the bill earlier this week and could be carried in an omnibus tax bill.MORE: What’s in the bill? Previous Session Daily coverage of HF4HF4’s passage would set up potentially difficult negotiations with the Senate, whose DFL majority has proposed a much different funding package that would introduce a new fuel tax and expanded metro area transit-dedicated sales tax to provide more transportation funding.Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing), chair of the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee, praised the bill as a step toward moving away from an “antiquated” transportation funding system that relies heavily on the state’s gas tax.“We’re very proud of the bill in front of you,” he said.Included in HF4 are measures that would increase funding to the Corridors of Commerce program aimed at busy commercial routes in Greater Minnesota; create a program for aid to cities under 5,000 residents that aren’t eligible for municipal state-aid street funds; and transfer $228 million of the state’s budget surplus from the General Fund for local highway and Greater Minnesota transit projects.The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday adopted an amendment that removed two further tax-related provisions — sections that would reduce base appropriations related to the motor vehicle sales tax to the Metropolitan Council and restrict the council’s ability to issue debt. Those may also be included in an omnibus tax bill.Painful transit reductions?Opponents repeated their displeasure with a bill they say will force painful reductions in Metro Transit bus service and that takes from the state’s General Fund at the expense of other funding needs.Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls) also criticized the bill’s level of investment in funding rail crossing improvements along heavily-traveled oil train routes. An amendment adopted by the transportation committee Monday would appropriate $5 million for grade separation projects at busy crossings; the Department of Transportation has identified more than $300 million in needs.“That’s not even enough to fund one grade separation” project, Hornstein said. Continue Reading
Airport workers joined a national day of protest asking companies that operate our of the Minneapolis/ Saint Paul International Airport to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Organizers say that families cannot survive on less than that. Continue Reading