The following resolution was passed at the SEIU Minnesota State Council Executive Board meeting calling on Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson to drop charges against the 11 #BlackLivesMatter members who were part of the peaceful protest at the Mall of America on December 20, 2014:
Having the right to take part in peaceful, non-violent protest is an essential part of any Democracy. Throughout history, many important victories have been won because brave women and men were willing to raise their voices and push back against the status quo. Any attempts to chill free speech will harm us all.
At a time of staggering racial inequalities, the #BlackLivesMatter movement is using their voices to shine a light on structural racism in our society and the harm it causes to families: the physical, economic, emotional and spiritual damage to our sisters and brothers here in Minnesota and across the country.
The decision by Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson to prosecute protest organizers is wrong. We should be having thoughtful dialogue on how to close the painful racial inequalities that plague our communities, not spending time criminalizing peaceful protesters. We urge Sandra Johnson to do the right thing and drop the charges against these peaceful activists.
St. Paul – Faculty, staff, and students from the University of Minnesota showed up at the Capitol on Wednesday evening to talk to candidates for the U of MN Board of Regents about the importance of soliciting input from faculty and students. As Regents awaited the outcomes of their elections inside the House chamber, University faculty, staff and students gathered in the hallway under a large print-out of the University’s mission statement and made themselves available to speak with candidates. Faculty decided to invite Regents into dialogue after attending the Higher Education Committee hearing, which they felt revealed a troubling disconnect between Regent candidates and the people of the University they seek to govern.
Many in attendance stressed the U’s land grant tradition and encouraged the Regents to defend this legacy from various threats. Harry Boyte, a Senior Fellow at the Humphrey Institute, observed that the land grant tradition means that universities are “owned by the whole people” and embody the idea of democratic excellence. At the heart of this idea is “that a diverse mix of people from many different backgrounds interacting and cooperating in learning and discovery can achieve greatness that a focus on individual stars and ‘the best and the brightest’ never can accomplish.”
This land grant tradition, argued Professor Karen-Sue Taussig, means that the U is not a business but a public trust. “I have become increasingly concerned that the administration and regents treat the U like just any other business rather than recognizing the distinctive public role the university plays in creating the kind of thoughtful, well-rounded and engaged educated citizenry that is essential to maintaining a vibrant democracy.”
The need to broadly educate citizens and serve an increasingly diverse populace was another recurring theme at the event. Student Alexandra Vagac noted that the U has a responsibility to provide a quality education to students regardless of their degree path. “When private dollars flood public education we begin to see situations like that of the Chicano and Latino/a Studies Department at the U, which is consistently underfunded compared to other ‘more profitable’ departments.” Echoing this point, Professor Irene Duranczyk observed that by “closing departments that embrace diversity” and that prepare Minnesotans to thrive in an increasingly diverse global society, “we are taking another step backward, away from our mission.”
In carrying out their duties, Professor Naomi Scheman emphasized that Regents should understand that they “are entrusted with the care of the University, and fulfilling that trust requires knowing about the history and the culture of the U and the complexities of the relationships with it and with diverse communities around the state, and protecting those relationships from being defined in narrowly economic terms.”
Faculty expressed hope that the conversations at the Capitol were just the first of many conversations with Regents. “Right now it seems to me that Regents mostly sit in rooms with administrators and digest reports and Powerpoint presentations designed to present a pre-packaged narrative about what’s happening at the U,” said Professor Teri Caraway. “Regents will carry out their public responsibilities more effectively if they actively solicit input from faculty and students about what is going on at the U.”
Faculty organized this event as part of their ongoing work to build a faculty union to increase faculty and employee voice in decision-making at the University of Minnesota.
U of MN Academics United is the faculty union forming to represent faculty and professional employees at the University of Minnesota. It is affiliated with SEIU Local 284, which represents over 7,000 education workers statewide, including the recently unionized adjunct faculty at Hamline University
Issue:Drivers Licenses for All
Why it Matters: Having the freedom to learn the rules of the road and earn a drivers license is an important part of being a full member of society. Being able to obtain a license is key to being able to engage as part of our community. With our current laws, undocumented families are not given this opportunity. All Minnesotans should have the ability to earn a drivers licenses without regard to immigration status.
Details/More Info: Minnesota immigrants explain why they support driver’s licenses for all
Issue:Funding for Long-Term Care Facilities
Why it Matters: Long-term care facilities deliver essential services for our aging population across the state, but without additional funding, they will be hard pressed to attract and retain workers to provide quality care to our growing senior population, especially in rural parts of our state. The new system should not promote a two-tiered workforce where housekeeping and dietary staff are treated significantly different from other caregivers. In addition, the new system should maintain protections that direct revenues to better wages/benefits and provide a strong worker voice in how those revenues are distributed.
Why it Matters:We are facing a crisis of retirement insecurity in our state and country, with nearly one million Minnesota workers having no retirement savings options through their employer, and of these, barely one in twenty save for retirement outside of work. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Minnesota households nearing or at retirement age (55+) have no retirement savings to speak of, and face the prospect of living in or near poverty on nothing but Social Security, or continuing to work indefinitely into their retirement years. Minnesota must do better for our workers who have spent a lifetime working hard and playing by the rules in the hopes that they might to be able to enjoy their retirement years.
Details/More Info: Fact Sheet on Minnesota Secure Choice Retirement Savings Act; AARP Fact Sheet
RAISING WAGES AND IMPROVING WORKPLACE STANDARDS
Issue:Labor Law Enforcement
Why it Matters: At a time when workers are increasingly falling behind and executive pay is at record high, it is more important than ever that we enforce the laws that are already on the books. This means pushing to improve, implement and make certain laws are being followed to prevent employer retaliation, wage theft and abuses around family and medical leave.
Issue:Earned Sick & Safe Time
Why it Matters: Minnesota families should not have to choose between taking care of their families health or making the money needed to put food on the table. When someone doesn’t have earned sick and safe time, they are forced to make this heartbreaking decision. In addition, many of the workers who lack sick time work are concentrated in the service industry, which means that if they have no choice but to work it can cause public health issues. Passing a bill for earned sick (for health issues) and safe (for issues like domestic violence) time will be a boost to thousands of working families in our state.
Why it Matters:Increasingly, corporations are using “flex scheduling” to increase their bottom line. This practice means workers don’t find out if they are working until the last minute, sometimes even after they show up for their shift. This causes undue hardship for those who need to arrange childcare, rely on public transportation and for the majority of workers in low-wage jobs who need to have a second or third job just to pay the bills. A fair scheduling law would call on employers to give their workers fair notice on when, and for how long, they will be working each shift.
Details/More Info: Airserv workers take on company’s ‘standby’ scheduling
PROTECTING AND EXPANDING OUR DEMOCRACY
Issue:Voting Rights Expansion
Why it Matters: Minnesota has a long and rich history as being at the top of the list for voter turnout, but we still have nearly half of the eligible voters stay home on Election Day 2014. There are ways to catch those who may not have voted, including early voting and vote by mail, which can ensure that as many Minnesotans as possible are taking part in our Democracy. We also have laws that continue to punish those who have committed a crime but are no longer incarcerated. Voting is an important part of our social fabric, and working to promote voting rights restoration for the tens of thousands of Minnesotans currently denied the right to vote will only serve to strengthen our communities and our state.
Details/More Info: Second Chance Coalition