While the moving protests against the marriage inequality bill grabbed the headlines this weekend, that gathering at the state capitol wasn't the only one. Others rallied to protest the majority party agenda that puts two percent of the state ahead of the rest of us.
I didn't get to the rally, but did participate in two of the three side actions. I wish I had been able to go to the capitol. From a Take Action Minnesota press release:
A diverse group of Minnesotans filled the Capitol Rotunda Saturday morning, calling on the legislature to increase taxes on the richest two percent of Minnesotans, producing a fair budget. Faced with devastating cuts to education and health care, an estimated 1,000 participants called for a responsible budget that protects Minnesotans, vital public services, and creates good jobs.
Hundreds then boarded buses to bring the message directly to CEOs, joining protests at the Minneapolis Club, Calhoun Beach Club, and the Lake Street Cub Foods.
A friend from this part of rural Minnesota spoke:
“I come from a part of the state that knows that that when we invest in our workers, our schools, our health programs, and our environment, everyone benefits. And that everyone should pay their fair share for those benefits,” said farmer Terry VanDerPol, a cattle producer from Granite Falls and a member of the Land Stewardship Project.
The first action I attended was at the Minneapolis Club:
At the Minneapolis Club, 200 people called on Wells Fargo CEO Jon R. Campbell, a member of the club’s Board of Governors and the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce, to pay his fair share. Wells Fargo received a taxpayer bailout, made $12 billion in profits in 2009 and 2010, then laid of more than 300 Twin Cities-area workers this spring.
“Wells Fargo received a bailout, got a huge tax refund, and then turned around and killed jobs for the very same people who made that money possible. Now, they tell us the state is broke and we need to fire teachers, cops and healthcare workers? CEO's and executives like those at Wells Fargo need to do their fair share like the rest of us,” said Kerry Felder, a North Minneapolis education activist and organizer with Neighbors Organizing for Change, whose neighborhood has been hard hit by foreclosures.
Update: here's a Youtube of the action that I edited:
Uptown, another action, which I didn't attend:
Margaret Uriah of St. Paul told the crowd she was outraged that families like hers are falling through the cracks, being cut off healthcare, and asked to sacrifice more, while legislators choose to shield the richest from paying their fair share. “When CEOs of healthcare companies providing public healthcare, like Medica’s David Tilford, make millions and aren’t asked to pay their fair share in taxes, we have a revenue problem.”
But I spent most of my time volunteering with some friends helping out retail cleaning workers:
At the Lake Street Cub Foods, CTUL (Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha), began an open-ended hunger strike to change the unfair wages and working conditions of workers who clean Cub Foods and other Twin Cities stores.
For over a year cleaning workers have asked Cub Foods to negotiate a Code of Conduct ensuring fair wages and working conditions for the workers who clean their stores. Ten years ago, many workers who clean Cub Foods made up to $10-$11 an hour. Now, most workers make as little as $7.50 an hour and the workload has doubled. The workers’ requests for dialogue with Cub have been ignored and in one incident peaceful protesters and bystanders were pepper-sprayed by Cub security.
“Every night we work in grocery stores and are surrounded by food, yet often many of us cannot even afford to feed our families. I am hunger striking to bring to light the injustices workers face every day cleaning Cub Foods and to call on Cub Foods to meet with us,” said Mario Colloly Torres, a former cleaner at Cub Foods and who was fired from his job after the protests against Cub began.
These actions are the beginning of a campaign around the state asking the richest 2 percent to pay their fair share, supporting Governor Dayton’s plan for tax fairness in Minnesota.
“There is no budget deficit. The only deficit in our state right now is the deficit of imagination and the deficit of moral clarity,” said Grant Stevenson, a Lutheran pastor and President of ISAIAH.
More will follow; here's a video of the CTUL action I helped assemble:
Photo: Grant Stevenson at the Minneapolis Club. Photo via the Campaign for a Fair Economy.