Minnesota is no utopia for workers: Labor Day and the fight for $15 an hour

All photos by Kayla Steinberg

Although it was mainly a plot to cool out radical activism, Labor Day is widely remembered as a celebration of the successful fight for the eight-hour day. Yet, while we’re approaching the United States’ 121st official Labor Day, it is now impossible for low-wage Minnesota workers to support their families while working only eight hours a day. Anthony Shields, a young community organizer with the workers rights campaign at Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), remembers the struggles his single mother faced working two full time jobs. “I would only see my mother for five hours a day, and between those five hours, she was exhausted and trying to get some rest, just because her one full time job wasn’t enough for food, not enough for the rent, and not enough for clothes on our backs,” he said. “In retrospect I’m like wow, you hold resentment towards your parents or your family because of certain situations, but now when you peel back the layers, it’s the system of the economics, and my entire family is affected by it.”

This system of economic inequality and the struggles that Shields’ mother and over 220,000 minimum wage workers in the Twin Cities metro area face today, along with how activists across the country and in the Twin Cities are fighting for fair wages and schedules, remind local labor historian, Peter Rachleff, of the 1886 fight for the eight-hour day. Continue Reading

Character tests were outlawed 50 years ago, but voting rights are still far from universal

Almost three years after Minnesotans voted down a restrictive voter ID amendment and 50 years to the day after the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, the United States still has the largest voting gap of any industrialized nation.

This voting gap means that in 2012, 80% of Americans making $150,000 or more voted, compared to only 36% of folks earning less than 50,000, according to Representative Keith Ellison who delivered the opening remarks at the Stay Restless event put on by Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon and his Council to Celebrate the Voting Rights Act in North Minneapolis Thursday evening. Continue Reading