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OPINION | Everyday Minneapolis workers are the heart of Minneapolis labor movement
When people hear or use the words “workers” or “union” or “labor,” what images might they be thinking about?
I ask this question because in the recent Minneapolis municipal elections we witnessed what I think was some unfortunate — and, frankly, offensive — bashing of workers and their unions.
The Star Tribune led the charge with its October 26 editorial endorsement in the Minneapolis mayor’s race.
The editorial ranked three top choices for Minneapolis mayor. Our AFL-CIO endorsed candidate, Mark Andrew, was not among the top three choices — but that’s not what’s at issue.
The editorial praised Betsy Hodges for “taking on special interest groups,” which in the editorial included unions.
In writing about Mark Andrew, the Star Tribune took him to task for his “close affiliations with unions…”
Later, two days following the election, the Star Tribune editorial commented on Hodges’ apparent win and noted that “big labor and a number of longtime DFL luminaries” had supported Andrew.
“Close affiliations with unions” and “big labor.” This rhetoric is part of the lexicon of the anti-union right wing and players like the infamous Karl Rove.
All union members and all unions, regardless of the candidate whom they supported in the mayor’s race, should be appalled at this editorial attack by the state’s largest newspaper. It’s an attack on us all. We need to stand together and push back.
I would ask the writers of the editorial: When you raise concerns about a candidate’s “close affiliations with unions,” just what do you mean? Too close to the workers who change beds and serve guests in the city’s downtown hotels? Too close to the teacher in our public schools? Too close to the worker stocking shelves and produce in the grocery store? Too close to nurses in our hospitals? Too close to the police and firefighters who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all?
Union members are part of the fabric of our community. Union members’ concerns and interests are no different from anyone else’s concerns: good jobs, affordable health care, safe neighborhoods, a good education for our kids, a chance to live with dignity in retirement.
In labor unions, workers express their collective voice. The term “big labor” is a slur used by those forces who would deny workers the right to express their collective voice, to collectively bargain, and to participate together in the political process.
Unions have been and continue to be at the forefront of almost every fight for progressive change in this country. Historically, unions led the fight for the eight-hour day and for health and safety regulations and for civil rights. Today, unions are key leaders in coalitions pushing for a minimum wage increase and for immigration reform. Unions work to create more jobs and more opportunity for everyone — and the list goes on.
Unions seek a better life for all workers and their families. Unions are not a “special interest.”
© 2013 Minneapolis Labor Review