Why I applied to join Minneapolis’ Workplace Advisory Committee

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Mass organizing conference on 10/15 to launch ward action groups across the city of Minneapolis

Over decades, working people in the U.S. and in Minneapolis have seen a decline in living standards. Communities of color and women are disproportionately impacted by low-paying jobs, the foreclosure crisis and attacks on public education. Nationwide, women fill two-thirds of low-wage jobs. Workplace relations are impacted by union busting and anti-union laws sweeping the country. This is why working people are building movements at the national, statewide and city level to change this dynamic and improve living and working conditions for all workers.

By organizing independently and waging large, public demonstrations, low-wage workers have won an earned safe and sick time policy and public support for a $15/hr minimum wage. Workers have shown that the public clearly supports proposals that build power for working people and achieve racial, gender and economic equity.

Due to this pressure, the city’s process now includes the Workplace Advisory Committee (WAC). The WAC is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the sick time policy approved earlier this year, and it will likely be tasked with recommending and overseeing implementation of a minimum wage proposal, following the city’s staff directive from August. The strength of the sick time implementation will set a standard for Minneapolis’ workplace regulations.

While organizing with the movement in the streets, I am applying to the WAC to unapologetically stand up for workers’ interests. I am applying to be a voice of movements in the city’s process of evaluating workplace policies. I bring my own experience as a low-wage, tipped worker and as an activist for economic, racial and gender justice to the table. But I will continue organizing a grassroots movement, because that is what it will take to win.

Many small businesses are squeezed by the power of big business. While corporations often hide behind a corner shop in their opposition towards, for example, raising the minimum wage, the needs of small businesses and their workers are rarely addressed. When I helped create a policy proposal for the charter amendment, we engaged low-wage workers, labor, and small businesses, to create a proposal that 68% of Minneapolis supports -- a proposal without carve-outs, getting all workers to $15/hour by 2022.

We should be clear that committees like the WAC have deep contradictions. The needs of low-wage workers are at odds with the profit motives of Minnesota’s largest corporations. This is why I would step onto the committee, from the perspective of movement building. I’m excited to participate in any discussion, anywhere, about minimum wage. But our fundamental leverage is the collective power of working people. After all, it’s no coincidence that this committee is being formed in the wake of two years of unprecedented worker organizing in this city.  

Minneapolis must lead the region by raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, ensuring the implementation of the state’s first sick time policy, pursuing initiatives to improve workplace safety, preventing wage theft and developing new ways to create racial and gender equity in the workplace.

15 Now Minnesota is working with a coalition of labor, faith and community organizations to continue growing an independent movement of workers and ordinary people and build workers’ power. I invite you to join us - become a sustaining member of 15 Now Minnesota with a small monthly donation, and sign up today to join your ward group to build the campaign for $15/hour in Minneapolis.

Below you’ll find my answers to the application the city process requested.

Solidarity,

Ginger Jentzen

Executive Director of 15 Now Minnesota


 

Describe your background related to any required or desirable qualification listed in the Notice. Include applicable experience with civic, professional or volunteer organizations and other city boards or commissions. List any awards or special recognition:

If selected for the Workplace Advisory Committee I would bring a unique and powerful set of experiences to the table to help ensure Minneapolis City Council do all in its power to improve the lives of working families. Before serving as Executive Director for 15 Now Minnesota, I worked for over a decade as a tipped worked in the restaurant industry, a home healthcare worker, and a housecleaner. I know what it’s like to rely on tips and the pressure that brings to put up with sexual harassment. I have experienced the sense of powerlessness that comes with wage-theft or having little control over my schedule. In part, these were the experiences that led me to dedicate myself to social justice work, to join Socialist Alternative and become a dedicated activist in the fight for $15.

I worked with 15 Now in Seattle to help lead the first successful fight for $15 in a major U.S. city. Through the experience in Seattle, I learned the importance of ensuring low wage workers are central to developing any proposal to increase the minimum wage. Since early 2015, I’ve played a central role coordinating a growing coalition of organizations committed to $15/hr, including unions, faith groups, neighborhood and community organizations, and small businesses. At the center of this coalition effort is grassroots organizing by low-wage workers, who I firmly believe should also be at the center of any discussion about minimum wage and workplace issues in Minneapolis.

I also bring to the table the substantial policy work already done in carefully crafting the $15 Charter Amendment language. While rejected as a Charter Amendment, the policy nonetheless represents the most developed and widely backed minimum wage proposal currently before the Minneapolis City Council. I led extensive negotiations to craft this detailed policy, integrating discussions from labor and community groups, low-wage workers, small businesses, and a series of national experts including substantial feedback from the National Employment Law Project.

Working in coalition, 15 Now initiated a broad, public discussion around our $15 policy proposal and successfully gathered nearly 20,000 signatures to qualify it for the ballot. A poll showed 68% support for our proposal in Minneapolis. On the WAC, I plan to carry this work forward as a strong advocate for working people in this city. The City’s study conducted by the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice at the U of MN shows the overwhelming benefits of passing an ordinance for $15/hour. I look forward to participating on the WAC to bring my experience as a low wage tipped worker, guided by a broader vision of creating a city that works toward guaranteeing working people’s rights and dignity, while continuing to build the movement of low-wage workers as the most important force to ensure strong workplace policies are passed in Minneapolis.

List the reasons you want to serve on this body:

I welcome the city developing a process to implement workplace policies, in a climate when workers are building social movements to win workplace victories to counter corporate influence. Along with other low- wage workers and representatives from labor, I aim to be a strong voice for working people on the committee.

List the issues that you believe the committee should address:

Organizing a transparent, open debate about workplace related issues, that makes the working people impacted visible and gives them a voice. Workers’ unions and other workers’ organizations, communities of color and activists themselves need to be represented in the process, not just confronted with results. These discussions and the developments of policy proposals should include:

  • Raising the minimum wage to $15/hour without gender discrimination (“tip credit”) or further delays.

  • Guaranteed hours, access to full-time hours, workers receive notice of shifts well in advance

  • Oversight of safe and sick time policies

  • Implement measures to root out wage theft

  • Workers’ and union rights, gender and racial justice in wages and hiring practices

  • Ensure the implementation of workers’ rights, enforcing law, ordinances and regulations

  • Financing and kicking off workers’ self-organized education programs on workers rights. City organized education of employers to guarantee workers’ rights.

  • Workplace safety

  • Paid parental and family leave

  • Review and development of anti-harassment policies in relation to workplaces

List any financial interests (where required) or associations with which you are involved that may present a conflict of interest: (PRIVATE)

I explained my views and connections openly above.


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