Supporters of a $15 Minimum Wage with No Carve Outs in Minneapolis Flood Public Testimony, Highlight Overwhelming Support for Ordinance
On Thursday afternoon, the Minneapolis city council held a public hearing about the proposed $15 municipal minimum wage. Testifiers voiced overwhelming support for a $15 minimum wage for all Minneapolis workers, highlighting the need for a policy with no exemptions or carve-outs, strong enforcement mechanisms, and prompt implementation.
“I work at Pizza Luce in the back of the house and we need to raise the minimum wage to $15 and still be able to get tips as well,” said Donell Martin, a member of CTUL, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha/Center for Workers United in Justice. “We cannot survive on anything less than that. All of my money goes to rent and bills. There are many times where I have to eat at other people’s homes because I don’t have enough money for groceries after my basic, basic needs are met. This is no way for us to be living in 2017, in one of the most progressive cities in the country.”
Testifiers included workers from diverse backgrounds and workplaces. Low-wage workers from fast food, retail, and other industries testified to the impossibility of surviving on $9.50 and the hardships they face. Workers from various unions, community groups, and unaffiliated supporters also voiced support for the increase, which would give a raise to 71,000 Minneapolis workers, disproportionately impacting Black, Latinx, immigrant, and female workers.
Tipped workers emphasized the need for One Fair Wage of $15/hour with no tip penalty.
“A $15/hour base wage plus tips is a living wage, and anything less than that leaves tipped workers behind” said Alex Doebler, a bartender at Buca di Beppo in Downtown Minneapolis. “Raising the wage for servers has never caused the apocalyptic outcomes the restaurant lobby claims, and doesn’t end tipping. One Fair Wage is the right path for Minneapolis.”
Young workers spoke against the proposed training wage, which would mean workers under 20 years old could be paid a sub minimum wage for the first 90 days at any job.
“I first applied for a job when I was 15 years old, and started working when I was 17 so that I could start saving to go to college and help my parents with family expenses,” said Clara Parra, CTUL leader and fast food employee in Minneapolis. “We shouldn’t be paid a lower minimum wage when we are doing the same work as people who are over the age of 20. This means that those youth, like my little sister, would work three months at a job and never even make it to the minimum wage.There are people who are 20 and younger who also have children of their own who need to make a living wage of $15/hr as soon as possible.”
The hearing comes after years of community organizing, protests, and strikes in pursuit of a $15 minimum wage for all workers in Minneapolis. Last summer, workers collected more than 20,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot directly to voters through a ballot initiative. Despite being one of the largest ballot initiatives in Minneapolis history and polling at 68% support amongst likely voters, the city council took the measure to the Minnesota State Supreme Court, which ruled it unfit for voters.
“I support $15/hour for all because I work two part time jobs, I’m a single mother struggling to raise three beautiful children,” said Sondra Williams, who works at Cub Foods and is a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 653. “I’m doing the best I can, but I am still struggling. $15 would not only help me and my family out, but it would help out all of us who are struggling.”
Outside of the council chambers, supporters gathered for a moment of prayer to honor the two-year anniversary of the death of Teresa Benson, a worker leader with CTUL. Benson was employed at McDonald’s when she passed away on June 22nd, 2015, from the compounded effects of homelessness, food insecurity, and lack of healthcare.
“This is a public health crisis,” said Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “There is a correlation between poverty wages and life expectancy. Poverty takes a huge toll on the community and ends up being more expensive than paying living wages.”
City council is expected to discuss amendments to the proposal on June 28th at 10am in the council chambers, and vote on the final proposal on June 30th at 9:30am.
After years of low-wage workers organizing against poverty wages, the Minneapolis City Council has finally introduced the initial language for a $15 minimum wage ordinance. Click here for more information.
CTUL leaders are heading to York, PA to the Bon-Ton Shareholders Meeting once again this year to educate shareholders on the poor working conditions they face cleaning Herberger’s stores in the Twin Cities and to call on Herberger’s to adopt a responsible contractor policy.
Last year, Leticia Zuniga, a leader with CTUL and retail janitor attended the meeting and spoke with Bon-Ton executives.
“We went to York, Pennsylvania to the annual shareholder’s meeting of Bon-Ton Corporation, which runs Herberger’s brand stores in Minnesota. We spoke to the CEO and a vice president and talked to them about the problems we’ve had with Capital, the cleaning contractor that cleans Herberger’s stores, and the company that I work for. They committed to establish a responsible contractor policy, and we are now working with the company the move that forward. I feel happy because this will make the difference in many workers’ lives — not just mine. This opens a path to better wages and respect on the job. That’s the reason why we do all that we do,” Leticia Zuniga, retail janitor and CTUL member.
One year later, they still have not implemented a Responsible Contractor Policy.
Herberger’s is using the “Trump business model” by contracting with a janitorial company that has been sued for violating workers’ rights, has occasionally stolen employees’ wages and has taken advantage of immigrant workers. Herberger’s has not taken the steps to ensure that the companies with which it contracts protect the rights and wages of workers. Janitors have been organizing and going on strike against Herberger’s janitorial subcontractor, Capital Building Services Group, demanding better treatment.
Two years ago they took Capital to court in a class action lawsuit over wage theft, where the janitors who were making as little as $4 or $5 an hour cleaning many Herberger’s stores. The court ordered Capital to return the wages it had stolen. In total, Capital had to pay back $425,000 in a settlement for stolen wages.
These working conditions impact people like Leticia and her family and we are saying enough is enough.
My name is Elizabeth Mejia Campillo and I work for Kimco Services as a retail janitor cleaning a Home Depot and a Kohl’s in the Twin Cities. At Kimco, we have repeatedly asked for raises and have not received them. We don’t have access to any benefits such as paid sick days or vacation time. Many of my co-workers are losing hours as Kimco continues to make us do the same work in less and less time. As the head of my household, I need to work two jobs in order to pay our mortgage, bills, and other expenses. I support my daughter while she studies in college and my 70 year old mother who still works part time only to pay her medical expenses.
I have been organizing with my co-workers to change this reality. If Kimco was a responsible contractor who paid fair wages and benefits, I’d be less stressed financially. I would be able to pay my mortgage every month without worrying about getting kicked out if my hours get cut. I would be able to spend more quality time with my mother and daughter if I worked one job and had time off. Kimco doesn’t understand my reality or listen to us. When my coworkers and I went on strike, they gave me a warning for missing work, which would be violating my rights. Since then they have erased the warning, but only because we spoke up and demanded that they respect our rights as workers.
This is why I’ve decided to attend the Home Depot Shareholder’s Meeting on May, 18th. My co-workers and I hope to educate Home Depot and their shareholders about the problems we are facing as janitors who keep their stores clean.
We also hope to address the public support that the Home Depot founders have given to Donald Trump. Trump’s agenda has been very anti-immigrant and anti-woman, which I feel is a direct attack on my family. My household includes three generations of women who have faced violence. I myself have suffered an assault. My brother was kidnapped and murdered in Mexico and to escape more violence my mother and daughter decided to leave their home and come live with me. We don’t deserve degrading comments or blame, we demand respect.
As a woman and immigrant who works hard to ensure the Home Depot store that I clean is always presentable for customers, I feel that President Trump’s policies and words are an attack on my family and no Home Depot investor should be supportive of those attacks. Myself, my mother, and my daughter have lived through hardship and loss but are strong together, continuing to fight and standing up for what we know we deserve. I go to the Home Depot shareholder’s meeting to represent my co-workers at Kimco, immigrants, women, and all of us who demand better from our employers and our country.
9:30-10:30am Picket with Striking Retail Janitors outside of Home Depot
Video by Labor Education Services
Hundreds of striking workers and community allies came out for the first action of the day outside of the Home Depot in Northeast Minneapolis. Subcontracted retail janitors who clean stores like Home Depot and Herberger’s are on strike to protest degrading working conditions and poverty wages and to demand $15 and the right to form a union without fear of retaliation. They stand together with millions of workers all across the country who are out in the streets to demand respect and dignity in their workplaces and to protest the anti-worker and anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration.
At the picket, retail janitors announced that they will be going to Atlanta to attend Home Depot’s Shareholder meeting on May 18 to educate shareholders on the poor working conditions in the cleaning of their stores.
Over 1,000 people marched in the International Workers’ Day March, including striking fast food workers, retail janitors and construction workers from CTUL. The march started in East Phillips Park, marched past Franklin Street Bakery where workers are organizing for fair wages and the fight to form a union without fear of retaliation, and past Wendy’s where workers are part of the Fight for $15.
We ended in Downtown Minneapolis, meeting the Minneapolis and St. Paul Teachers Unions, and ending with a call on City Hall for a $15 minimum wage in Minneapolis for all workers.
International Workers Day / Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes 5.1.17
May 1st is International Workers’ Day, commemorating the Haymarket affair and immigrant workers’ fight for an eight-hour workday in the 1880s. This year immigrant workers across the country are calling for a General Strike on May 1st, including no work, no school, and no shopping. In the Twin Cities, workers will be striking to fight against the racist and anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration, and to demand respect on the job, $15 an hour, and the right to organize without fear of retaliation.
Stand with workers on May 1, 2017:
9:30-10:30am, Retail Janitors Strike, Outside of the Home Depot in The Quarry, 1520 New Brighton Blvd, Minneapolis
This action will launch International Workers Day and A Day Without an Immigrant in the Twin Cities. Retail janitors organizing with CTUL will be going on strike to demand an end to wage theft in their industry and are fighting for $15 and a voice on the job. Other retail janitorial companies have improved wages and other work standards including the right to form a union without fear of retaliation, but Kimco (which cleans Home Depot and other stores in the metro area), Capital, and Diversified refuse to meet those basic standards.
The march will start at 4pm, including stops at Franklin Street Bakery where workers are organizing for better wages and the right to form a union, Wendy’s on Franklin Ave as part of the Fight for $15 and union rights with fast food workers, U.S. Bank with the Minneapolis and St. Paul Teachers Unions, and end in Downtown Minneapolis to send a message to City Council that all workers in Minneapolis need a $15 minimum wage.
Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers nationwide participated in a powerful Day Without Immigrants action, responding to the attacks on immigrant communities by the Trump administration. As part of this action, hundreds of thousands of workers went on strike demanding workplaces and communities free of discrimination based on national origin and religious beliefs. Federal labor law under the National Labor Relations Act protects workers’ rights to participate in such a strike. CTUL is committed to defending the rights of all workers as they fight for better workplaces and communities, where everyone is treated with dignity and respect and not met with discrimination of any kind.
Most employers have respected and supported the rights of workers as they participated in yesterday’s strike and were welcomed back to work today. We have received a handful of complaints from workers who have been threatened with retaliation by the employers for participating in the actions. So far, once we have reached out to these employers together with the workers, the majority have respected workers’ rights and have welcomed the workers back to work. However, there are a couple of employers who are currently choosing not to respect the rights of workers. We are working closely with these workers and employers to try and resolve the threats of retaliation.
We will continue to monitor cases that we are made aware of to support workers in defending their rights. We are very thankful for all community members, allies, businesses, and elected officials who are standing in solidarity with the immigrant community by signing a community letter of support.
Most importantly, the continued courage and resilience of the immigrant community is proof that we will not only survive, but continue to stand together and build the resistance needed to make our world a better place. We are proud and honored to stand with all immigrants in the struggle for peace and justice for us all.