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

Still no clues on the West Broadway fire

In April, an intense fire devastated historic buildings on West Broadway. After a press conference raised the possibility of arson, investigators are no closer to knowing what happened, while the neighborhood is rebuilding. “You already had a press conference with the fire chief,” Marie Egbujor told me. “They probably don’t know who did it. It’s pretty dead right now, business is pretty down.”

But was it arson? Continue Reading

Dueling State of the City Events Reveal Rift Between Rhetoric and Reality of Inequality

These days it’s hard to tell whether Minneapolis is united about being divided. Last week, two contrasting “state of the city” events — Mayor Betsy Hodges official speech at the American Swedish Institute, and a rally the next morning organized a North-side grassroots group — illustrated the ongoing tension between the rhetoric and reality of racial inequality in Minneapolis.Hodges’ speech, an annual tradition for mayors across the country, emphasized the themes that led her to an easy victory in the 2013 election. As Gino Terrell wrote on the Daily Planet earlier this week, Hodges stressed education, income inequality, and climate change, as part of her plans for the upcoming year. But the well-received speech comes only months after Hodges’ efforts to devote city resources to addressing inequality became surprisingly contentious. During budget debates at City Hall, Hodges’ plans to address racial inequality sparked a small controversy, particularly in parts of the city that are struggling the most with foreclosures and racial inequality. While debating the budget, Council Members Yang and Warsame and other Council Members  voted to defund part of Mayor Hodges’ key proposals in favor of more “meat and potatoes” issues that impact neighborhoods like Jordan or Cedar-Riverside, home to many  of the highest proportions of people of color in the city. Continue Reading