We are all Minnesotans today

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Immigration raids around the country target workers in their workplaces. Their focus highlights the immigrant roots of U.S. unions and labor organizing. This week in Minnesota two events focus on immigrant workers in Minnesota: a December 13 gathering commemorating last year’s raid in Worthington and an award to this year’s successful Justice for Janitors campaign.

Remember the raids?

• Remember 230 workers seized, and all workers who “looked like” immigrants detained and locked down until they could prove their immigrant or citizen status.

• Remember the thirteen-year-old girl, left without parents when her mother was shipped to Mexico and her father disappeared) Days later, he was found in detention in Atlanta.

• Remember the twelve- and thirteen-year-old U.S. citizen children, the only safe members of their families, who had to look for missing relatives, shop for groceries, seek help.

• And remember the response of the union and of Minnesotans who supported the devastated families and community.

Remember them all on December 13, at an event commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Worthington meatpacking raid. The program will run from 7 to 9 p.m. at St. Joan of Arc Church, 46th St. and 3rd Ave., Minneapolis. The theme is “Remembering the Raids: Reclaiming Our Community.”

The Minnesota community spotlighted a victory for workers at the Take Action Minnesota dinner December 8. Chants of “Sí se puede!” from Latino workers were joined by “Ha waan awoodnaa!” from Somali workers as Take Action Minnesota honored the successful Justice for Janitors campaign. The janitors, organized by SEIU Local 26, demanded more full-time work and better health care coverage. Their previous contract had such high prices for health care coverage that only 14 of 4200 workers were covered. Under the new contract, monthly insurance premiums dropped from $750 to $75.

In November, the union launched a new campaign to improve contracts for security guards and window cleaners. The goals of the campaign–affordable healthcare, income that can support families, and improved training and safety—were tragically highlighted this month December by the death of 52-year-old union leader Fidel Sanchez-Flores, who fell through a skylight at the IDS Center while he and other workers were clearing snow from the roof. The union has set up a fund to help the Sanchez-Flores family at:

The Family of Fidel Sanchez-Flores Memorial Fund
c/o Union Bank & Trust
312 Central Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55414

A crowd of union members stood at the front of the banquet hall to accept the Take Action Minnesota award. Immigrants and U.S.-born workers stood shoulder to shoulder, as they had throughout last year’s successful campaign.

“We stood together,” a union leader told the audience. “No matter when we got here, we all are Minnesotans today.”

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