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15 Now MN: We Put $15 on the Agenda, Now Let’s Win!

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Today was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had in the over 30 years I’ve spent as a worker and an activist fighting for social justice. Several hundred workers and supporters marched on City Hall and handed in 20,000 signatures to put $15/hour on the ballot in November. This initiative is about empowering working people in Minneapolis to address Minneapolis’ worst in the nation racial and economic inequalities. It took an enormous effort to get this far, but now we need to win in November. We need your help!

We must be ready for big business to spend millions of dollars to protect their profits and defeat a living wage. We need to raise one million dollars to win this campaign. If we win, it means almost a billion dollar transfer of wealth from big business into the hands of working people annually. That means every dollar we raise puts $1,000 directly into the pockets of Minneapolis workers.

Can you dig deep, and donate $48 dollars to win this campaign? That’s how much more a minimum wage worker would make every day if we win $15!

We’re gaining momentum, but this has been an uphill battle from the beginning.  Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and a majority of the City Council oppose a phased in $15 wage despite the fact that polls show that 82% of likely voters favor such a measure.  Ten weeks ago, we launched a vibrant campaign to collect signatures to put $15 on the ballot. Over a hundred people volunteered over 2,000 hours of their time to knock on doors in working class neighborhoods and engage those directly affected by poverty wages. Our campaign has been funded by ordinary people, with over 700 people making small donations to make this campaign possible.

Getting 20,000 signatures is only the first hurdle, however, for the fight for $15/hr in Minneapolis.  The City Attorney and some City Council members have raised questions about the legality of a Charter Amendment.  We’ve proven this initiative is perfectly legal for Minneapolis, but we all know there is a long history of politicians disenfranchising workers and people of color when it comes to defending the interests of big business.  But a key aspect of our legal strategy is building a movement of working people who can stand up to the Chamber of Commerce lawyers.

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Steven, a McDonald’s worker organizing with CTUL, signing the final signature

There is a powerful coalition forming to win $15/hour. It includes 15 Now Minnesota, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), Centro de Trabajadores en Lucha (CTUL) and Socialist Alternative – Unions like the Minnesota Nurses Association, Communications Workers of America and many others – faith groups, neighborhood organizations, retiree associations and college students. We’ve printed materials in English, Spanish, Somali, Oromo and Hmong. We’ve hosted organizing meetings across the city in churches and mosques, workplace break rooms and small businesses, campuses and retirement homes.

With your financial support, we can build an unstoppable working class movement to win $15/hour and beyond. Donate today.

-Kip Hedges, Retired Baggage Handler and 15 Now Organizer

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15 Now MN: Sick Days Victory Shows Minneapolis Can End Poverty Wages

After a two year movement of rallies, strikes and actions, low-wage workers in Minneapolis won the first Earned Sick and Safe Time (ESST) policy in the Midwest. By passing ESST, City Hall unanimously agreed to take responsibility for workplace conditions, as a result of increasing pressure from escalating demonstrations by low-wage workers and a powerful coalition. This further shows City Council can pass our campaign’s proposal for $15/hour as an ordinance at any time.

Sick time was one issue in a suite of workers’ rights demands, including $15, that City Hall hesitated against taking action on in the fall. In response, workers organized and forced the city to take action, with escalating demonstrations demanding sick days, a $15 minimum wage, and an end to wage theft, including one rally of hundreds that brought downtown traffic to a halt back in February.

Pro-business policies have left Minneapolis with some of the worst in the nation racial equity gaps, despite also also having the highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the country. “City Hall felt urgency when big business lobbied for the Vikings Stadium,” said Ginger Jentzen, Executive Director of 15 Now Minnesota. “City Hall should feel the same urgency to pass $15 as they did to strike a deal for the Wilf brothers.”

Mayor Hodges has said she does not support raising wages at a city level but stood with workers on sick time, and City Attorney Susan Segal has raised questions of bringing $15/hour as a charter amendment. “Passing sick time shows it’s legal to put a $15 minimum wage to voters in Minneapolis, and we aim to get the signatures to show that 20% of our win number in the fall supports putting the $15 decision back into the hands of Minneapolis workers,” said Ginger Jentzen.

Minneapolis taking the initiative on paid sick days has spurred other cities to follow suit. St. Paul and Duluth are now considering their own paid sick time policies. Demonstrations in Minneapolis have raised workers’ confidence in cities across our region.

82% of Minneapolis voters support a phased in $15/hour minimum wage. This widespread support can be seen in the fact that In just five weeks, over 10,000 people have signed the ballot initiative for a $15/hour minimum wage. The $15 for Mpls campaign is working to verify signatures collected to ensure it meets the threshold of 7,000 to qualify. Over 400 individual donors have contributed a median donation of $6 — that’s how much more, per hour, minimum wage workers will earn if we win $15/hour

But it took a movement and powerful organization of working people in Minneapolis to win safe and sick time. By linking pro-worker policies and increased membership in unions to win $15, we’re building a method to reverse the economic devastation working people have faced under decades of waiting for big business to voluntarily enact policies which benefit workers. Pascual Tapia, CTUL member and retail janitor said, “I am happy to see that my work helped open the space to win paid sick days in Minneapolis.”