Campaigns & Programs
Defensores (Rights Defenders)
Rights Defenders (Defensores) is a program focused on Leadership Development and Labor Education with a multiracial membership base. We fight against violations of labor rights in the workplace to build power with workers from different industries who have historically been marginalized due to their race, immigration status, gender, and social class in and around the Twin Cities. Our vision is to improve working conditions for workers and for the working class to empower themselves in their rights and educate other workers and join the movement for social justice.
The Defensores program includes a mutliriacial group of workers as well as the Future Fighters program, a group of all Black workers within CTUL currently a part of the campaign to defund the police and reinvest those funds into other programs that actually keep communities safe.
Building Dignity and Respect
The Campaign for Dignity and Respect will set a new precedent for worker rights in the non-unionized sectors of the Twin Cities metro area construction industry to improve the conditions for all workers. Since CTUL’s inception in 2004, about a quarter of workers who came through our doors worked in the non-union construction industry. After years of witnessing severe exploitation and rampant wage theft in the industry, CTUL began a construction worker committee where non-union construction workers bring their voice, experience, and leadership to improve conditions and win back stolen wages.
Developers’ prioritization of profits over people has fueled the creation of two increasingly divergent worlds within construction– with workers outside of union protections suffering high rates of wage theft (including non-union workers citing that they do not expect to receive their full wage on 1 in 5 jobs they work), unsafe working conditions, misclassification, retaliation and discrimination. This downward pressure in the industry maximizes profits by rewarding those who cut corners and cheat workers to submit the lowest bid – hurting the workers and their families.
Historically, trade unions have ensured that construction jobs are dignified and high paying. While this remains true in many parts of the Twin Cities, there is also a dark underbelly of non-unionized development, rife with human rights abuses. In this world, developers and their financial backers at the top make record-setting profits off the backs of underpaid and exploited workers, often immigrants and workers of color. Workers are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in extreme cases, are trafficked and forced to work without pay. Developers have skirted responsibility for these violations, insulating themselves through complicated webs of contractors, subcontractors, and labor brokers. However, their time to feign ignorance and look the other way is coming to an end.
Now, through strong partnerships with the Building Trades Unions, and the voice, experience and leadership of CTUL’s construction worker members, we are building a more equitable industry together. The Building Dignity and Respect Program (BDR) will build upon the remarkable success of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, to create a Worker Driven Social Responsibility (WSR) Program in construction.
The Building Dignity and Respect Program calls upon those profiting off this system of exploitation to take responsibility for what happens on their job sites and join us in creating a solution. Under the BDR Program, Participating Developers will sign a legally binding agreement to uphold certain human rights standards on their projects. These standards are designed by the experts: construction workers themselves – specifically workers with CTUL who developed the Code of Conduct. There are provisions against wage theft, physical and sexual abuse, and human trafficking, as well as access to safe working conditions and fair pay. Workers are made aware of these protections through comprehensive, worker-designed education sessions, empowering them to become frontline defenders of their own human rights.
The Building Dignity and Respect Standards Council (BDC) is the independent monitoring group charged with ensuring work-place standards are upheld, and that violations are dealt with swiftly and efficiently. In stark contrast to other forms of “Corporate Social Responsibility,” the BDR Program ensures a rigorous investigation, and real market consequences for contractors who refuse to honor construction workers’ dignity and human rights. As the architects of the program, the BDC has worked closely with partners in the Building Trades Unions to ensure that this program doesn’t undermine union density, but rather strengthens it.
We call on United Properties, Solhem Companies, and Yellow Tree to take responsibility for conditions on their construction sites and join the Building Dignity and Respect Program. These developers have been identified as leaders in the industry to take this first step in creating a more just construction industry for all. While we have identified these three developers as leaders in the industry, we are always open to communication with developers to resolve these issues.
Future Fighters is the all Black workers committee within Defensores. Members are currently a part of the campaign to defund the police and reinvest those funds into other programs that actually keep communities safe, such as worker protections, additional wage theft investigators, and other social programs.
Future Fighter is committed to leadership development, political education, Black and Brown solidarity curriculum, combating anti-Blackness, and organizing an annual Juneteenth event, celebrating Black culture and history.
Rise Up Campaign
RiseUp was formed in June of 2020 after the George Floyd Uprisings by Tending the Soil (TTS), a strategic alignment of groups who organize low-income BIPOC communities including Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), SEIU Local 26, Inquinlixs Unidxs por la Justicia (IX), Awood Center, and Navigate/Unidos MN, all of which have significant membership bases near Lake St and W. Broadway in Minneapolis, and all of whom are dedicated to a Just Recovery. See the vision statement here. Another key partner in RiseUp is the Green Jobs program of MN350.
The goal of RiseUp is to create a development process that serves community needs which we have defined as 1) good, well-paying jobs with opportunities for advancement for individuals in the corridors and individuals from other low-income communities, 2) truly affordable projects that allow low-income renters to stay and thrive in their neighborhoods, 3) construction meeting the highest environmental standards practicable, and 4) community ownership that allows renters, small business owners, and/or workers to control where they live and where they work.