Rights forum attacks racial income gap

workersforum228Nearly 200 community members gathered at the Neighborhoods Organizing for Change office for a forum on workers’ rights in Minneapolis and throughout the state, including a need for earned sick and safe time, fair scheduling, a living wage, and ending wage theft on Saturday, February 28.

“When I was working at McDonald’s, I had a baby and had to go back to work ten days later or lose my job–even though I had a C-section,” said Octancia Adams, an organizer with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. “They wouldn’t give me paid time off. We need earned sick and safe time for all workers.”

Rosa Garcia Perez, a cook at McDonald’s organizing with Centro de Trabajadores Unido en la Lucha (CTUL), spoke about the difficulties of raising a family in a low-wage job. “I have to work the overnight shift by myself–and sometimes I don’t even have time to go to the bathroom or drink water,” said Rosa. “I’m currently four months pregnant, so I need to do both of those things a lot. We all deserve fair scheduling and higher wages, and that’s why we’re organizing to have our voice heard in the workplace.”

NOC member Jeremy Little sometimes works the closing shift at Perkins until 2 am only to turn around and open at 7 am. “Unless you get a chance to recharge you can’t be at the top of your game,” said Jeremy. “A new law would allow me more flexibility with school–my grades would probably be better. I could perform better in my personal life. I’d be a happier person. Period.”

Advocates are exploring a range of policy changes for workers at both the state and city levels. The Working Parents Act, guaranteeing all workers earned sick and safe time and fair scheduling, among other changes, was introduced in the legislature this month.

Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant, who helped pass a $15 minimum wage in Seattle, visited Minneapolis two weeks ago, fueling energy and buzz for a living wage in Minneapolis.

“Minnesota has one of the worst racial income gaps in the country,” said NOC executive director Anthony Newby. “Continuing on the path we’re on not only hurts hardworking families of color, but has serious implications for our shared future. The time is now to choose a different path that invests in building a state where we all have the opportunity to not just get by, but get ahead.”

March 10, 2015
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