Joining 500 in the Working Families March of November 10, 2015 to support retail janitors walking off their jobs in the Twin Cities, was the best kind of high.
The march began at McDonalds in Northeast Mpls before the sun was up, — a show of solidarity with fast food workers across the country. I met the moving brigade in front of the downtown Macys at 7:30AM in time to see students from the U of M and Home Care workers who recently organized into a union, arrive on open air trucks caravanning down Nicollet Ave.
CTUL and Black Lives Matter Minneapolis welcomed the caravan. The Minnesota Nurses Association and Communication Workers of America and SEIU members, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, (NOC) Mpls NAACP, Faith groups and clergy, added their voices. The picket lined bunched at a food table providing hot tamales and coffee. The sun had yet to remove the morning chill and the hot liquid warmed cold fingers.
Minneapolis’ pre-Thanksgiving Macy’s parade was inspired by the upscale department store’s practice of wage theft and general neglect of workers most basic rights — like occupational health and safety — demands of workers a century ago. The picket line snaked in front of Macy store windows displaying designer watches and bedroom sets.
People carried homemade signs that detailed our city-wide working families demands. $15 minimum wage! Paid Sick Days! Regular Schedules! End Wage Theft!
The one I carried said We are no longer invisible.
From Macy’s we marched behind a flatbed truck through downtown to the following the chants of Kerry Jo Felder, organizer of People of Color Union Members (POCUM) an organization that has pushed the Minneapolis Labor Movement to commit to racial justice. It is behind the scenes hard work of groups like POCUM that build the networks that make coalition actions like this possible.
People raised their fists as we entered the Hennepin County Government Center — a signal to be quiet as we walked through it into the skyway to shut down a branch of US Bank where workers denied sick days, are organizing.
From there we marched across the street to City Hall for a rally in the atrium. Striking workers, Black Lives Matter and CTUL activists echoed each other with a message for local politicians pass a working families agenda or don’t even think about getting re-elected.
Brian Merle Payne of CTUL noted that two years ago, when fast food workers in NYC went out on strike for $15, people said it could not be done. Today thousands of workers in dozens of cities are striking and marching for a $15 minimum.
The movement is growing exponentially, connecting immigrant rights, Black Liberation, labor, student and faith-based groups in unprecedented ways.
It is those connections and solidarities that will allow us to #ReclaimOurCity and nation.