Minneapolis Federation of Teachers 59 at the Minnesota State Capitol while on strike in 2022.

Minnesota Unions Push for Bill Extending Unemployment Insurance to Striking Workers

Catina Taylor has worked as a special educational assistant for the past 25 years in Minneapolis Public Schools. She’s a member of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers 59 (MFT 59) and President of the Education Support Professionals (ESPs). In 2022, Minneapolis teachers went on strike for three weeks. Taylor was on the picket line—she remembers not being able to feel her feet in the cold. Although she looks back fondly on the “historic” strike, she adds that it was a financially difficult time for many members. 

Going on strike is one of the most powerful tools workers have, but can be a difficult choice for workers to forgo weeks of pay in the hopes of making greater gains for the long term.

Amanda Maass is a childcare provider and involved with Kids Count On Us, a worker center dedicated to worker organizing and legislative protections for the essential workers.

Iron Range Childcare Worker on Organizing for Better Care for Children

The mines of the Mesabi Iron Range gleam red under the light covering of snow that remains after a historically warm winter in northern Minnesota. Hibbing, a mining town of around 16 thousand people, bustles with industry. And in any town with working people, you’ll find the working people who make all other industries possible: the childcare workers. 

Iron Range Tykes, a small childcare center in Mountain Iron, Minn., sits on a small hill just off Minnesota State Highway 33. There’s a fenced-in playground and a full parking lot. Amanda Maass, 34, a long-time childcare worker, has worked there for the past three years.

John See in his office at the University of Minnesota.

An Interview with John See: Labor Historian and Video Innovator on Nearly 40 Years of Service to the Minnesota Labor Movement

In October 2023, John See worked his last day at the Labor Education Service (LES) after a 39 year tenure. His office was a treasure trove of Minnesota union history—adorned with vintage Teamsters trucker hats, retro pins from the 70s, and a constant stack of VHS tapes digitizing onto one of the half dozen monitors where he was often seen fervently editing videos and coordinating audio visual work for major conventions. While See’s office may be cleared from the nearly four decades of ephemera, his legacy and dedication to Minnesota’s labor movement continues. 

See concluded his career with a massive, archival project. He digitized thousands of tapes of the public access program, Minnesota at Work, which aired from 1984 into the early 2000s, featuring workers speaking about their lives and working conditions, working with Randy Croce, Howard Kling, and the late Martin Duffy. Along with Minnesota at Work, many different kinds of programs have been archived.

First Avenue workers pose with their fists raised outside the iconic Minneapolis music venue only a few hours before the First Avenue management voluntarily recognized the union.

First Avenue Workers’ Victory: Another Win for Union and Worker Center Collaborations

In the late summer of 2021, a group of workers from First Avenue, the iconic Minneapolis music venue, were fed up with low pay, last-minute scheduling, lack of parking, and safety concerns, and wanted to implement some of their own ideas in their workplace. Unsure of how to get it done, the workers decided to first contact  Restaurant Opportunities Center of Minnesota (ROC-MN) to learn more about their workplace rights. 

Fast forward to November 2: Over 200 bartenders, event staff, and other in-house workers across seven venues affiliated with First Avenue marched on the boss and delivered a petition that included the faces and names of over 70% of staff who want to unionize with UNITE HERE Local 17. About 24 hours later, First Avenue management voluntarily recognized the union. 

Workers say the unionization effort was successful, in part, due to the collaboration between the worker center and the union. Even before formal recognition, workers were confident. Pauli DeMaris, a First Avenue bartender and event staff for the past 18 years, said in an interview with Workday Magazine a few hours before recognition, “We have over 70% majority already on board.

A shot of the Master Lock factory in Milwaukee, WI as a worker leaves after their shift.

Master Lock Factory in Milwaukee Closes After 100 Years

After more than 100 years, Master Lock’s iconic factory in Milwaukee is shutting its doors in March 2024. The closure will result in 400 lost union jobs, and also mark the end of a former industrial region of the city that once housed some 50 plants. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfmKb2dvimU

The Real News, In These Times, and Workday Magazine speak with current and former Master Lock workers on what the closure of this longstanding plant means for them and their community. Transcript

The following is a transcript of the video

President Obama:

Hello, Milwaukee. That’s what we’ve got to be shooting for is to create opportunities for hardworking Americans to get in there and start making stuff again and sending it all over the world, products stamped with three proud words, “Made in America.” That’s what’s happening right here at Master Lock.