In the News

For thousands of Minnesota patients, Medicaid will have a new look

“Minnesota’s biggest public health insurance program will take on a new shape after next year, when about 500,000 enrollees will be encouraged to develop a close relationship with a primary care clinic, while doctors, clinics and HMOs will be held more accountable for patient care outcomes.

[…]

“In general there is a lot to like here and a lot to build on,” said David Zaffrann, health care program manager at TakeAction Minnesota. “Folks are much more likely to have a preference for their doctor or clinic based on where they live or based on past experience than they are to have a strong preference between big HMOs,” he said.”  Read more

Jacob Frey wins mayor election in Minneapolis

“Jacob Frey soundly defeated Mayor Betsy Hodges and 14 other candidates Tuesday after presenting himself as a mayor who will be visible, willing to compromise and relentlessly enthusiastic about the city.

A 36-year-old native of Virginia who was drawn to Minneapolis after running a marathon here, Frey is a lawyer and first-term City Council member representing parts of downtown and northeast Minneapolis.

[…]

“For Betsy, what we saw in this race was challenges from the left and challenges from the right,” McGrath said. “She was pinched between the two.”

McGrath said Frey found a way during the campaign to hold together “disparate constituencies,” such as downtown business and people in neighborhoods, while projecting a persona that’s palatable to some progressives. But holding that coalition together will be more difficult in office, as Hodges well knows, McGrath said.

“How does he now govern with those disparate constituencies expecting different things?” McGrath said.”  Read the article here

Defining what makes a candidate a true progressive

“The bedrock of Minnesota’s Democratic voter base will head to the polls next week. As voters in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth prepare to cast ballots in their local elections, we’ve seen a progressive arms race break out.

Candidates with all sorts of different policy positions and political ideologies are vying to be “the progressive.” Even Minneapolis Works, a right-wing political action committee of downtown business leaders, promotes its candidates as progressive. The silly season has arrived.”  Read more

Is ‘right-wing,’ ‘conservative,’ ‘Republican’ political committee Minneapolis Works! actually any of those things?

“No political candidate wants to learn that an apparently well-funded independent political committee has decided to help your opponent … and hurt you.

But the Minneapolis city council candidates who are in the crosshairs of a business-oriented committee called Minneapolis Works! are making the best of it, using the still-mysterious committee to motivate donors and volunteers against what they’re portraying as right-wing attack funded by big money, out-of-town interests.” Read more

No timeout for earned sick and safe time debate

“The Duluth City Council may have opted not to receive a report Monday night from a specially appointed task force that was to make some recommendations regarding a prospective earned-sick-and-safe-time policy, but the topic dominated much of the evening’s meeting nevertheless.”  Read more.

Dayton, consumer advocates blast Minnesota HMO for $120 million transfer

“One of Minnesota’s biggest health insurers is catching flak from Gov. Mark Dayton and consumer advocates for transferring $120 million from its nonprofit Minnesota HMO to other operations, including a for-profit insurance unit.

 

[…]

“They are funneling money from Minnesota to Wisconsin at the same time they were going to the Legislature saying we need money for reinsurance to keep premiums down,” said Kenza Hadj-Moussa, communications director for TakeAction Minnesota, which opposed the legislative changes that allowed for the transfer.

The reinsurance program, which was passed by the Legislature and recently approved by the federal government, will allow the state’s health plans to moderate premiums in the individual market.

“We are entrusting these insurance companies to do the right thing, considering the reinsurance package came with no strings attached,” said Hadj-Moussa.” Read more.

Minnesota GOP governor hopefuls all back voter ID

October 9, 2017

State Rep. Matt Dean counts himself among those who believe there is voter fraud in Minnesota. There is no evidence of any widespread problem, but Dean still favors tighter voting rules, including voter ID.

“They can say ‘well, there’s never been as case of voter fraud found in Minnesota.’ How would you ever know?” asked Dean, R-Dellwood, who’s competing for the 2018 Republican nomination for governor.

Similar claims were made in 2012 when Minnesotans rejected a constitutional amendment that would have required people who wanted to vote to show a photo ID. Only 46 percent backed the ballot question.  Read more.

St. Paul mayoral candidate Dai Thao promises to fight inequality

October 6, 2017

Dai Thao doesn’t like being underestimated.

“As early as elementary school, he spotted inequalities. He challenged the teacher of his English as a Second Language class: Why weren’t they learning what other students learned? Why were the expectations lower?

“She told me I could leave,” said Thao, a St. Paul City Council member who came to the United States from Thailand with his family as a boy. “So I just got up, and I left.”

It would be a recurring theme in the years to come: Thao, frustrated by inequity and injustice, trying to do something about it.” Read more.

Red-State Governments Are Trying to Take Back Your Minimum-Wage Hike and LGBTQ Protections

“For at least a decade now, the far right has exploited its near-total domination of state government to clamp down on the mere possibility that progressive change could take root in the small specks of blue—the defiant, often Democratic cities—that hover in their midst. From Arkansas and Texas to Alabama and Missouri, reactionary legislatures and governors have used their power to roll back promising local legislation: minimum-wage ordinances, sanctuary-city laws, LGBTQ anti-discrimination regulations, and other achievements meant to better the lives of immigrants, people of color, the working class, and the queer community, among others.

 

[…]

LESSON 1: BE AWARE OF THE PREEMPTION PROPOSALS IN YOUR STATE LEGISLATURE, AND STOP THEM FROM BECOMING LAW WHENEVER POSSIBLE. PREVENTION IS THE BEST REMEDY.

[…]

“A coalition came together to fight it,” says Chris Conry, the strategic campaigns director at TakeAction Minnesota, a statewide network that fights for racial and economic justice. “It was many of the same groups that had been active fighting for sick time in the first place: labor organizations, community-organizing groups, and faith-based organizations.”

Conry says the coalition’s key goal was to publicize the preemption bill as widely as possible, using slogans like “protect local control” and “stop corporate interference” to ensure that Minnesotans knew about the state legislature’s attempt to overturn the will of the people. Indeed, just moments after the preemption bill passed the state Senate, the Minnesota AFL-CIO sent out e-mails to its followers asking them to call the governor and demand he veto it.

“I think the people who wanted [the preemption bill to pass] would have preferred to have the whole thing happen as quietly as possible,” Conry adds. “Once people understand what [preemption] is about, they don’t like it, so there is just a lot of room to run. You can talk to people in suburbs or rural areas or cities and nobody likes it, and if you go do that education work, it is a potent force. You just have to make it controversial and bring it out into the light of day.”

[…]

LESSON 2: GRASSROOTS COALITION-BUILDING IS, AS ALWAYS, THE ESSENTIAL STRATEGY.

[…]

LESSON 3: TRANS-LOCAL AND MULTI-CITY STRATEGIES CAN AMPLIFY THE POWER OF THE MOVEMENTS BATTLING PREEMPTION LAWS.”

Read more. 

Congressman Jason Lewis ‘appalled’ by protesters at his door

A group of about 20 protesters showed up at U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis’ (R) house in Woodbury on Wednesday. They coursed up his driveway bearing signs, crowded around his front step, and chanted about healthcare loudly enough for his neighbors to hear. Lewis had supported the Republican health care bill, which included deep cuts to Medicaid.

Lewis wasn’t at home, but when he heard about the “invasion” later, he was incensed, calling the protest a “wanton disregard of civility,” and a “dangerous ramping up of rhetoric that already has one of my House colleagues in rehab from a vicious attack.”

Lewis’ office didn’t respond to our calls, but the congressman appears to be refering to U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who is in rehabilitation after a Bernie Sanders supporter shot him during practice for the Congressional Baseball Game in June.

video of the protest accompanied Lewis’ post as evidence, though instead of threatening mobsters, protesters are elderly ladies, a senior gentleman in a wheelchair, homecare workers, and a handful of young activists with TakeAction Minnesota. The group led a set of chants for a few minutes, before reading aloud from a letter, which was then propped against Lewis’ door.

Their “dangerous” rhetoric included a short speech by senior citizen Debra Francis: “My PCA would have to juggle even more work to keep up with the cost of living. Medicaid only provides the baseline of what thousands of families need. Caregivers, like my PCA, and seniors, like myself, are hardly getting by as it is.”

Demonstrators appeared to avoid stepping on Lewis’ prim green lawn as they left. 

Read more.

Can the DFL reconnect with rural Minnesotans?

August 2, 2017

If you look at the electoral map of Minnesota in 2016, it’s possible to conclude that the DFL no longer is a statewide party.

One little exercise brings that point home: If you subtract all the votes cast in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties in the 2016 election, Donald Trump would have easily carried Minnesota, with 58 percent of the vote.

As it was, Hillary Clinton defeated Trump, with 46.1 percent of the statewide vote. But she carried just nine of the state’s 87 counties. And not only did Trump crush Clinton in Greater Minnesota, but Republicans won control of both houses of the Legislature.

Read more.

Paid Sick And Safe Task Force Steps Closer To Closing Deal

July 27, 2017

The Duluth City Council is working to adopt a sensible paid sick time policy.

Tonight it seems as if some progress has been made.

Duluth’s earn sick and safe time task force plans to present a final draft of the referendum to the Duluth City Council to approve or not approve.

If approved employees that currently don’t receive any paid sick leave would now be able to accumulate hours to help with much needed time off when needed.

“We know that 46% of the population would end up to having access to earn sick and safe time. Tangibly what does that look like, it looks like people and families not having to make a choice about whether they go to work sick or send their kid to school sick because they can’t afford to take a day off work.” Shawnu Ksicinski, Duluth Program Manager, Take Action MN says.

The Duluth City Council is expected to vote on the measure in the fall.

Watch the video.

Protesters demand town hall from Rep. Emmer

July 5, 2017

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6th District, last faced a town hall of his constituents Feb. 22 in Sartell.

At that meeting, Emmer made a promise to the 150 people gathered: If he voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he would replace it with something better.

On Wednesday, political activists from the 6th District gathered near the Municipal Athletic Complex in St. Cloud to call on Emmer to fulfill that promise and explain his May 4 vote in favor of the American Health Care Act (ACHA).

“It’s very disappointing, there is no human connection with Tom,” Kathryn Tasto, a Becker resident at Wednesday’s protest, said.  “That’s why these people are out here — he is avoiding us. He is running away from us.”

Read more.

 

Local Residents Protest American Health Care Act

July 5, 2017

ST. CLOUD — A group of concerned local citizens held a peaceful rally Wednesday afternoon asking state leaders to pass their message to Congress to vote not to end the Affordable Care Act.

Several residents shared their personal stories on how the current health care system has helped their families.

Kathryn Schwartz Eckhardt says while her family has good health coverage, it took a frightening experience with her son who has a chronic respiratory condition, to realize others may be as lucky without the Affordable Care Act.

“My son is going to be fine because I can afford to take care of him. But millions of children rely on Medicaid and other public assistance to make sure they have access to care,” says Schwartz Eckhardt.

The Senate left for recess without voting on a bill after the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would cause 22 million people to lose coverage.

Jim Magnuson spoke on how his fathers life was taken too early because he couldn’t afford health care coverage.

“When he came down with pneumonia, because of his pride and fear of recurring more debt than he could pay, he didn’t go to the hospital until it was too late,” says Magnuson.

St. John’s/St. Ben’s professor Jim Read attended Tom Emmer’s Town Hall meeting in February. He spoke to the crowd and said before the American Health Care Act was proposed, many people were concerned about what was to come.

“It was obvious from signs, stickers, conversations, and questions asked that people were extremely concerned about health care,” says Read.

The rally was put on by the group Concerned Citizens of District 6, a group created to try and reach local lawmakers before Congress reconvenes to vote to end the Affordable Care Act.

Minnesota’s top health care regulator said Wednesday changes to Medicaid funding could cost the state $2 billion in the first 18 months.

The Associated Press Contributed to this story

(Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON)
(Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON)

Read More: Local Residents Protest Against American Health Care Act [VIDEO] | http://wjon.com/local-residents-protest-against-american-health-care-act-video/?trackback=tsmclip

Minnesota secretary of state won’t supply voter information to Trump’s panel

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said Friday that he won’t fulfill a request from a presidential panel to ship voter registration information for some 4 million Minnesota voters to Washington.

Simon questioned both whether Minnesota law would allow him to provide the information to President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission and to what end it would be used.

“When Minnesotans registered to vote, they didn’t ever think their personal information would end up in some federal database in Washington, D.C.,” said Simon, a DFLer elected to his statewide post in 2014.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence are overseeing the commission, which Trump established in May to explore his unfounded claim that millions of people voted illegally in the last election. In a letter Thursday, Kobach asked election chiefs in every state to provide, if public, the names of registered voters, party affiliation, last four digits of Social Security numbers, voting history back to 2006, felony convictions, military history and voter registration in another state.

Several Minnesota Republicans criticized Simon for declining to turn it over. State Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, a former secretary of state, said Simon should “stop obstructing the president in his quest to strengthen voter integrity. Minnesotans gain nothing by pretending no one in our state ever votes illegally, but we have a lot to gain by making sure every legal vote counts.”

“It should be a shared goal of Democrats and Republicans to ensure integrity and fairness in our elections and protect the concept of ‘one person, one vote,’ ” Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt said in a statement. “To be clear: The commission is not asking for anyone’s private personal data, or anything that is not already publicly available.”

Some of the information requested by the commission isn’t collected in Minnesota. Other information isn’t actually public. For example, birth year is public, but not birth date. Minnesotans also aren’t required to register with a political party. 

It’s not just what the commission wants that concerns him, Simon said, but why they want it. Minnesota law limits the purposes for which voter data can be purchased and used. The law specifically allows data to be provided for political purposes and law enforcement. If it were the Department of Justice requesting the information, Simon said, “we might be having a different discussion.”

Numerous states are declining the commission’s request in full or in part — and not just states controlled by Democrats. California, Virginia, Kentucky, Massachusetts and New York have said they won’t provide the information. In many other states, including Kobach’s home state, leaders have said they will fulfill parts of the request.

In a statement Friday to the Washington Post, a spokesman for Pence defended the letters.

“The commission very clearly is requesting publicly available data in accordance with each state’s laws in an effort to increase the integrity of our election system,” said the spokesman, Jarrod Agen. “The commission’s goal is to protect and preserve the principle of one person, one vote because the integrity of the vote is the foundation of our democracy.”

In his letter, Kobach said the data will be used to “fully analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting.”

Kobach asks for a response by July 14 and indicates that submitted information will be made public. The commission will meet for the first time July 19.

Simon doesn’t dispute the public nature of some of the data — just the purpose and the motives of the commission. “It sure doesn’t look to me like an objective investigation based on who’s running it and what they’ve already said,” Simon said.

Simon noted that Pence and Kobach have publicly supported Trump’s claims that millions of votes were illegally cast in the recent presidential election. The claims of massive voter fraud usually raise the specter of voting by dead people, felons and immigrants.

“This is only an exercise to make a public case for some form of national voter restriction,” said Dan McGrath, executive director of TakeAction Minnesota. He added that the commission is “a big Kabuki play designed to question the legitimacy of our democracy.” The organization fought a constitutional amendment in 2012 that would have required voters to bring ID with them to the polls. Minnesota voters rejected the amendment.

McGrath argued that Kobach has made a career out of “advancing a case of voter fraud” to restrict voting. To give the commission “any air of legitimacy is a mistake,” McGrath said.

Read the rest of the article here. 

Minneapolis and St. Paul DFLers ponder future of endorsement process

Hundreds of St. Paul residents recently packed into a warm middle school auditorium and spent 10 tedious hours trying to agree on which DFL mayoral candidate to rally around.

The outcome was predictable: They picked no one.

As Minneapolis DFLers prepare for their convention Saturday, many anticipate the same result — and are contemplating whether the process needs to change.

Mayoral hopefuls in the DFL-dominated cities still want that stamp of approval. Many Minneapolis candidates plan to step down if someone else gets the endorsement, which typically results in the endorsee getting more money, volunteers and votes. But candidates and campaign staff said conventions should be more inclusive and efficient. Some residents are even asking: With ranked-choice voting, should caucuses and conventions continue?

“We need to have a conversation about whether it makes sense to continue to have an endorsing process in Minneapolis. I think there’s an intense criticism of it, and I think it’s a fair question to ask,” Minneapolis DFL Party Chair Dan McConnell said.

Nonetheless, the convention remains an important first test for campaigns, he said. It shows whether candidates can organize support and whose message resonates with voters.

On Saturday, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges will be vying for the DFL endorsement against seven other candidates, including state Rep. Ray Dehn, Council Member Jacob Frey and former Hennepin Theatre Trust leader Tom Hoch. The election is Nov. 7. Read more. 

Activists and organizers reimagine modern day policing in Minneapolis

For 18 days in 2015 the community occupied the Minneapolis Police Department’s Fourth Precinct in North Minneapolis. For 18 days the community came together to demand justice for Jamar Clark, and an end to police brutality in general. During those 18 days, the community defied commonly held beliefs about the necessity for police.

Hundreds of people packed Plymouth Avenue in front of the precinct. There was no shortage of raw emotion. Yet, the only violence of note was the occupation being attacked by white supremacists. Through an organized network, the community pooled resources to provide food, shelter, warmth and some medical care among many other needs for those who were there. The atmosphere and overwhelming sense at the occupation was one of support and community. Community organizer, activist and artist Keno Evol, who was at the occupation for a majority of the time, talked about this dynamic: “folks respected each other… not only that… folks cared for each other. Folks gave away their gloves. Things like that.” Read more. 

Minnesota secretary of state won’t supply voter information to Trump’s panel

Steve Simon questioned whether Minnesota law would allow him to do it and what end the information would be used. 

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AARON LAVINSKY, DML – STAR TRIBUNE STAR TRIBUNE Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, shown in 2015, said Friday that he won’t fulfill a request from a presidential panel to ship voter registration information for some 4 million state voters to Washington.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said Friday that he won’t fulfill a request from a presidential panel to ship voter registration information for some 4 million Minnesota voters to Washington.

Simon questioned both whether Minnesota law would allow him to provide the information to President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission and to what end it would be used.

“When Minnesotans registered to vote, they didn’t ever think their personal information would end up in some federal database in Washington, D.C.,” said Simon, a DFLer elected to his statewide post in 2014.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence are overseeing the commission, which Trump established in May to explore his unfounded claim that millions of people voted illegally in the last election. In a letter Thursday, Kobach asked election chiefs in every state to provide, if public, the names of registered voters, party affiliation, last four digits of Social Security numbers, voting history back to 2006, felony convictions, military history and voter registration in another state. Read more. 

Cities, States Deliver Paid Leave so Survivors Can ‘Get Safe’

A growing movement is making it possible for survivors of domestic violence to take time off—without sacrificing their income or jeopardizing their jobs.

The lack of paid time off from work can spell economic disaster, or worse, for people escaping abuse.

Shawnu Ksicinski, a worker rights’ advocate, told Rewire about domestic violence survivors “fired for showing up with bruises on their face.”

“They lost their jobs because instead of staying home, or being able to seek medical assistance, they were going to work,” said Ksicinski, Duluth program manager with TakeAction Minnesota. The organization is pushing for paid sick time and “safe time” in cities around the state.

A growing movement is making it possible for survivors of domestic violence to take time off, with pay, to care for themselves and their families—without sacrificing their income or jeopardizing their jobs. Read the full story. 

Mark Dayton meets with African-American leaders after ‘horrific’ video of Castile’s death released

With stone-faced African-American leaders standing behind him, Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday that watching the newly released video of St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez killing motorist Philando Castile was horrifying, painful and shocking.

Dayton, a Democrat, said it was one of the “horrific reminders that everyone … is not treated equally in the state of Minnesota.”

The governor made his comments after meeting with the leaders for more than an hour. The meeting was filled with “raw emotion” as the community grappled with the visions of Yanez shooting Castile just seconds after pulling him over during a traffic stop last July in Falcon Heights. 

Read the article here.

Cities, States Deliver Paid Leave so Survivors Can ‘Get Safe’

The lack of paid time off from work can spell economic disaster, or worse, for people escaping abuse.

Shawnu Ksicinski, a worker rights’ advocate, told Rewire about domestic violence survivors “fired for showing up with bruises on their face.”

“They lost their jobs because instead of staying home, or being able to seek medical assistance, they were going to work,” said Ksicinski, Duluth program manager with TakeAction Minnesota. The organization is pushing for paid sick time and “safe time” in cities around the state.

A growing movement is making it possible for survivors of domestic violence to take time off, with pay, to care for themselves and their families—without sacrificing their income or jeopardizing their jobs.

“To get a protective order, to get housing, to take time off for anything you might have to deal with,” said Sherry Leiwant, co-founder and co-president of A Better Balance, which advocates for workers and families. “To get safe, essentially.”

Legislators in at least seven states, 14 cities, and the District of Columbia have passed laws to make safe time available to survivors of domestic violence, according to A Better Balance. The measures also apply to survivors of sexual assault and stalking. 

A dozen safe time provisions were passed in 2016. Safe time provisions are being written into paid leave laws, even appearing in ballot measures in states with GOP-held legislatures, like Arizona.

“Most of the newer laws do include safe time, even in states where you wouldn’t expect it,” Leiwant told Rewire. “We expect to see more in the coming year in states and localities.”

Advocates say the campaigns highlight the financial toll of gender violence.

“Survivors, many times they can’t afford to take unpaid leave, so they’re put into this position of having to choose between their safety and economic security,” said Sharon Terman, senior staff attorney and head of the Work and Family Program at San Francisco’s Legal Aid at Work.

Up to 52 percent of domestic violence survivors and almost half of sexual assault survivors reported they were fired or had to quit because of the violence, according to research.

The prospect of a survivor’s financial independence can incite abusers to sabotage employment opportunities. Abusers inflict “bruises, black eyes, and cigarette burns, so the women will be too embarrassed to go to training, work, or a job interview,” according to a federal report on domestic violence among welfare recipients.

“I think increasingly there’s this recognition that financial independence and economic stability are crucial to a survivor’s ability to escape abuse,” Terman told Rewire. “Paid safe days are a really important support to ensure that survivors don’t have to risk their pay while they’re trying to stay safe.”

Paid safe time measures usually piggyback on paid sick leave laws and work in a similar fashion. Workers earn paid leave, which they can typically begin using after 90 days of employment, according to an analysis by A Better Balance. Survivors don’t necessarily have to tell their employers why they need paid time off. Under California’s law, for example, the employer needn’t “inquire into, or record” the reason the employee is taking the paid leave.

The state and local safe time measures come amid longstanding inaction in Congress. The federal Security and Financial Empowerment Act, which has been introduced several times, would require employers to provide 56 hours of earned paid leave to a worker for domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or dating violence.

While the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave, the leave is not paid, which discourages people with low incomes unable to afford to go without a paycheck. “It assumes you have enough economic security to take time off without pay,” Maya Raghu, director of workplace equality with the National Women’s Law Center, said of the FMLA. And because the FMLA applies to medical care, a survivor can’t use it for court hearings or to relocate.

Given the shortage of paid leave for survivors, Ksicinski said it’s important that paid sick leave campaigns recognize the needs of workers fleeing abuse. She said the group has worked closely with local domestic violence advocates and shelters to elevate survivors’ needs.

Read the rest of the article here. 

St. Paul mayoral candidates square off on social justice issues

St. Paul mayoral candidates assured residents Tuesday that they would raise the minimum wage, fight poverty and address climate change.

Many social justice advocates attended the final forum before Saturday’s DFL nominating convention. The event was hosted by local organizations the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, TakeAction, the Service Employees International Union and ISAIAH.

The attendees quizzed candidates on social issues, such as how they would protect immigrants.

“We can’t be the type of place that targets our own neighbors and our own residents. And we also have to be a place that’s about creating opportunity,” said Melvin Carter, a former council member who directs Gov. Mark Dayton’s Minnesota Children’s Cabinet.

Carter secured the most delegates during ward conventions in April. But he has far less than the 60 percent of delegates needed to win the endorsement.

Council Member Dai Thao came away with the second-most delegates, slightly more than former Council Member Pat Harris.

About a quarter of the delegates did not commit to a candidate at the seven ward conventions.

Thao’s campaign was disrupted in the middle of the ward conventions by allegations he attempted to solicit a bribe from a lobbyist and her clients. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is still investigating the allegations, and Thao continues to run.

On Tuesday, he called the allegations “a poison pill slipped into my drink that was supposed to knock me out of the mayor’s race.”

Both Carter and Thao have said they will drop out of the race if another candidate secures the DFL nomination. Harris, now senior vice president at BMO Harris Bank, has said he will remain in the race even if he doesn’t get the nomination. Tom Goldstein, a former school board member, received the least delegates and has said firmly whether he would abide by the nomination.

Click here to read the rest of the article. 

Minnesota Governor Rejects GOP-Backed Wage Suppression

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) this week vetoed a bill written to deny workers paid sick-time and quash a local campaign to lift the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The state’s base wage is $9.50 per hour, or $19,760 annually, Dayton noted in his veto message. It’s an amount that places a family of four below the poverty line.

“People need to be making a livable wage, which is $15 per hour,” Kyanna Roland, an activist with TakeAction Minnesota, which supports the $15 minimum wage, told Rewire.

The GOP legislation, SF 3, is an example of a preemption bill, an increasingly popular big-business strategy to suppress local labor laws. In 2016, 36 states introduced bills to preempt city ordinances, up from 29 states just a year earlier.

 

Minnesota Republicans advanced the preemption legislation in response to an anticipated $15 minimum wage hike in Minneapolis and paid sick-time measures passed in that city and St. Paul.

Without paid sick leave, employees “didn’t got to the doctor, they went to work sick,” Roland told Rewire. “That was a huge issue, especially in the food industry, where people would go to work sick.”

In recent years, roughly 40 U.S. cities have increased their minimum wage, and more than 30 have guaranteed paid sick days, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP). The National League of Cities called 2016 the year of the minimum wage increase. Read the full story here.

Emmer, Lewis, and Paulsen could have saved the ACA — instead, they voted to destroy Medicaid to pay for tax cuts

St. Paul, Minn. (May 7, 2017) — The U.S. House of Representative voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act today. Health care has been a top concern for Minnesotans since Trump took office. In February, 1,000 constituents showed up at a town hall meeting in Sartell, Minn. to question Rep. Emmer on repealing the ACA. Last month, constituents protested outside of the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce to ask Rep. Paulsen, who was speaking at a paid business breakfast, where he stood on the matter.

“Emmer, Lewis, and Paulsen could have defeated this horrific bill. Instead of listening to their districts, they voted to make a nightmare into reality,” said Dan McGrath, executive director of TakeAction Minnesota. “They voted to kick millions of people off health care to finance tax cuts for the rich. This goes against every value we have. Minnesotans won’t forget.”

Twenty GOP members of Congress voted against the American Health Care Act. If just two more Republicans voted against it, the bill would have been defeated today. All three Minnesota GOP members of Congress voted for it.

TakeAction Minnesota is a statewide, multi-racial people’s organization. We advance democracy and equity through organizing, political action, and policy campaigns. www.takeactionminnesota.org

Duluth Earned Sick & Safe Time Task Force Opens Conversation

An ongoing debate over whether the city of Duluth should mandate paid sick leave is moving forward with the city council-appointed task force hearing from groups that would be impacted by earned sick and safe time. 

The task force is three months into a year-long process studying the issue, and after gathering background, they’re opening up the conversation to the community. 

Dozens from the Northland Human Resource Association filled a meeting room Tuesday afternoon. Task Force member Arik Forsman said that’s evidence the debate matters. 

“It’s a topic that inspires a lot of passion on both sides, there’s good arguments to be made on both sides,” Forsman said. “We are just so happy to see all these people here.”

An earned sick and safe time benefit would cover being absent from work due to either illness or critical safety issues, including domestic violence. Local human resources professions are uniquely invested in what a citywide policy would look like. 

“These are the people that are administering these plans, it’s a great opportunity to learn more,” Patricia Stolee with the Northland Human Resources Association said. “We really wanted to educate the community about some of the implications — what are the benefits but what are the implications for the employers.” 

Advocates who want to bring a policy mandate to Duluth said that right now, five out of six people in the lowest income bracket don’t have access to earned sick and safe time. That’s people making less than $35,000 a year.

“The people that actually need to have a paid day off the most are the folks that don’t have access,” Shawnu Ksicinski said. “It’s typically occupations that women and folks of color and indigenous folks in our community hold, so then we’re looking at issues of racial and gender equity in our community.”

Click here to read the rest of the article. 

Cities’ sick leave, other employer mandates targeted by Minnesota GOP lawmakers

New paid sick leave mandates scheduled to take effect this year in St. Paul and Minneapolis face a potential new challenge: the state of Minnesota.

A House job growth committee heard lengthy testimony Thursday from dozens of business and labor advocates on either side of a bill that would strip Minnesota cities of the ability to impose citywide wage and benefit mandates in excess of state law. The bill passed the majority-Republican committee 13-9 along party lines.

The four-hour evening hearing packed in a sometimes-testy audience of workers and advocates associated with the faith-based anti-poverty group ISAIAH, the AFL-CIO, the CTUL fast food workers and janitorial union, TakeAction Minnesota and other progressive action groups. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and retail, grocery, construction, trucking and staffing associations were largely represented by lobbyists.

Advocates have pointed to the importance of uniformity in state labor law.

“There are 854 cities in the state of Minnesota,” said committee chair Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, the bill’s lead House sponsor. “It is unrealistic and unproductive to have 854 different labor standards.”

The DFLers on the committee called the bill an about-face for Republicans, who have supported local rule-making.

“With a flip of a moment, we are trying to take away the power of local government,” said state Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul. “This is really shameful. I can’t believe this is coming from your party — that you are trying to take away local control from communities.”

Speaking for the opposition, Rose Roach, executive director of the Minnesota Nurses Association, said she spent months co-chairing an “earned sick and safe time” committee in St. Paul last year, which resulted in worker protections that were unanimously adopted by the St. Paul City Council. “And it now appears outside corporate interests are interested in doing an end-run around the will of the people,” she said.

Garofalo’s so-called “pre-emption” bill would block four types of potential local regulations related to minimum wage rules, mandatory paid leave, employee scheduling ordinances and minimum benefits or working conditions. It does not pre-empt city government salaries or contracts. 

Opponents said the legislation would eliminate important worker safeguards that the state has failed to provide. Several Minneapolis City Council members have advocated for a new citywide minimum wage that would exceed the state floor of $7.75 for small businesses and $9.50 for larger employers, though the conversation is less far along in St. Paul.

Last year, St. Paul and Minneapolis individually hammered out paid sick leave mandates that will apply to private employers throughout their respective cities. Both sets of rules are scheduled to take effect later this year and could be overturned by the proposed legislation.

“I have a 6-year-old son,” said McDonald’s restaurant worker Guillermo Lindsay, a member of CTUL, while addressing the committee. “You’re telling me if you take away my sick time, I won’t be able to take my son to the doctor.”

“I’m lucky to have access to paid sick time in my workplace, but in St. Paul there are 72,000 workers who don’t,” said Associate Pastor Javen Swanson of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul. 

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Statewide preemption: The most dangerous bill you’ve never heard of

 
 

Last Thursday, Feb. 2, a basement hearing room of the State Office Building was packed. The overflow room was overflowing, so a third room had to be opened (and was soon filled too). Starting at 4:09 p.m. the hearing ran till almost 9 p.m. as one testifier after another weighed in on House File 600, an innocuous-sounding restriction on local government authority.

What was this new proposal? And why the passion? The bill was a “statewide preemption” proposal designed to strip local governments of their authority to improve state or federal workplace standards. Why the urgency? Because on July 1 of this year, over 150,000 people in Minneapolis and Saint Paul are due to start receiving earned sick and safe time, a paid benefit that would allow them to take time off when sick or dealing with domestic violence. To stop this, the state’s most powerful industry lobbyists lined up to argue to repeal now and restrict forever local control.

New bill, old strategy

In Minnesota, this is a relatively new proposal, but it’s a very old strategy. First introduced in 2015, preemption was heard once and then resuscitated during special session negotiations in 2016. But its origins go back much further. Preemption laws are the latest version of a pernicious strategy: changing the rules as soon as they actually start to work for people of color, women, immigrants or the working poor.

Minnesota’s cities are permitted to act to promote the general welfare or protect the health of the people in their city limits, unless state or federal law preempts those powers. Neither the Minnesota Legislature nor the U.S. Congress have enacted a sick time standard or forbidden cities to do it themselves. In fact, 31 U.S. cities (and 2 counties), including Minneapolis and St. Paul, have enacted their own sick time ordinances. Every legal challenge to this basic municipal powers (in states without preemption laws) has failed.

American history is filled with powerful moments of democratic innovation. It’s also full of cringe-inducing overreactions. Again and again, people of color, women, immigrants, and poor Americans innovate new forms of political power. Unions are formed, new political parties are organized, the franchise is expanded, new organizing tactics are deployed. The sit-down strike. The mass boycott. Contentious objection. Letter writing campaigns. Occupations. Flash mobs. Tweetstorms. And all variations of shall-not-be-moved-ness. It’s part politics, part theater, and pure invention. It’s an engine of American history.

The most recent of these chapters is being written in our cities and is being led by women, people of color, immigrants, and the working poor. And like many previous chapters, the powers-that-be are trying to change the rules once they are used to threaten the status quo.

The great-great grandfather of this strategy is, of course, the Jim Crow system. As recently freed slaves started to gain power in the Reconstruction era, the rules were changed. Poll taxes, poll tests, property requirements and myriad other new rules disenfranchised and disempowered African-Americans for generations.

The Taft-Hartley Act

After the New Deal era, as the union movement expanded its organizing in the South, Republicans made common cause with Dixiecrats to pass the Taft-Hartley Act. This law rolled back the already compromised Wagner Act by allowing states to outlaw union shops and prohibit sympathy strikes and secondary boycotts.

As blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans led the U.S. kicking and screaming through the civil rights era, the rules were tightened again. The successes of child advocacy, welfare rights, and public-interest law organizations were answered by changes to tax laws that restricted their ability to exercise certain forms of political power, like influencing the legislative process.

More significantly, since the mid-1970s the mass incarceration system has ballooned — disproportionately robbing men of color not just of their freedom, but also of their access to jobs and the right to vote.

Since 2000, as the electoral power of people of color became more clear, it’s no coincidence that voter restriction laws, like Minnesota’s proposed 2012 state constitutional amendment, took off. They’ve proliferated even more rapidly since 2008 when the “Obama Coalition” of people of color, women, young people, unions, and progressives won a national election.

A spreading reaction to victories

In the last 10 years, regular people have been winning big victories in cities: in particular, sick time and minimum wage improvements. What’s been the reaction? Preemption laws. Where did they start? The South and the states run by ambitious, right-wing governors. Georgia in 2004. Wisconsin in 2011. Louisiana in 2012. Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee in 2013. Alabama and Oklahoma in 2014. Michigan, Missouri, and Oregon in 2015. And North Carolina and Arizona in 2016.

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Minnesota Business Owners Urge Lawmakers to Keep Affordable Care Act

A group of Minnesota small business owners gathered in Minneapolis Monday to urge lawmakers to keep the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

They believe the current health care system has allowed them to afford insurance for themselves and their employees.

“The ACA was successful through two prongs by expanding and strengthening our public health care programs and by ending some of the worst insurance company abuses and private insurance,” said David Zaffrann with Take Action Minnesota.

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Organizations challenge plans to cut health care for 2.4 million Minnesotans

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – As Republican congressional leaders plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act in January, grassroots leaders from four top Minnesota community groups and two prominent unions held actions at the offices of two Republican congressmen, to let the lawmakers know they oppose cuts in health care in the state.

Representatives from the State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Minnesota Nurses Association, the community religious group Isaiah, TakeAction Minnesota, the Land Stewardship Project and the Main Street Alliance of Minnesota descended on Reps. Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer, voicing concerns about the future of health care in the state.

The unions and their allies are primarily responding to the imminent threat facing the Affordable Care Act, which has helped millions of Americans gain access to health insurance for the first time, extended health care to adult children until they are 26 years old and offered protections and access to healthcare to millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions.

They took the firm stance that if any change is to be made, it should improve and strengthen the policies, not bankrupt the entire American health care system while padding the pockets of insurance companies and big business.

Similar groups are planning similar actions nationwide to protect the ACA. But Congress’ ruling Republicans and the incoming Republican Trump administration show few signs of paying attention.

Even before Trump took over the Oval Office, GOP leaders introduced a budget “reconciliation” bill to order congressional committees—under the guise of fixing the federal budget—to take the first steps to repeal the ACA.

And they’re doing so without anything to replace it.

In the Minnesota lawmakers’ offices, the faith communities, business owners, nurses, farmers and the like gathered with signs saying “DON’T TAKE MY HEALTH CARE” and “DON’T TAKE MY MEDICAID AND MEDICARE” as well as personal signs sharing what losing healthcare would mean for their families.

They also brought letters to their congressmen, giving their own stories as to how programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act, and MNsure have been lifesaving policies. And they emphasized that demise of these programs will have devastating and life-threatening consequences for hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans and millions of people across the country.

The organizations’ members invited their congressmen to schedule meetings with them to further discuss ways that they can better represent their constituents.

Terry Johnson, a leader of Isaiah, has both a son and granddaughter that have distinct, chronic health issues that require both expensive and consistent care.

“It is only because of the Affordable Care Act that my baby granddaughter is alive,” the Brooklyn Park resident. “She would not still be here if it weren’t for her treatments and they’d never be affordable without ACA. Likewise, it is only because of Medicaid that my son has his lifesaving coverage. He works every day and still couldn’t afford [healthcare]. It is because of these policies that they are both still here so am gravely concerned and disappointed that there are plans to repeal a policy that has saved so many lives.”

“What I deeply care about is that people can go and get their health care needs met of at a price that they can afford. Nothing is perfect. But people are very, very afraid that they will lose access to help and livelihood,” said the Rev. Paul Slack of New Creation Church, Isaiah’s board president. “This plan to revoke a lifeline to millions of people is unethical and immoral.”

The group said accessible health care is also important to job creation and helping families thrive.

Federal and foundation data show 380,000 people could lose health insurance and Minnesota could lose $16.4 billion in federal funding with the repeal of the ACA. There are 912,000 people on Medicare and over 1 million people on Medicaid in Minnesota.

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20 Years of Community-Focused Dialogue

2016 marks the 20th anniversary of Hamline’s Commitment to Community (C2C), a university-wide diversity initiatives committee of students, faculty, and staff, whose mission is to foster diversity awareness, knowledge, and understanding through discussion, dialogue, and community building. C2C was founded by two Hamline undergraduate students, Dan McGrath ‘99 and Grant Anderson ‘97, who have continued their inclusive and community-focused work in their lives and careers after Hamline.

While at Hamline, McGrath majored in English and political science, was vice-president of the Hamline Undergraduate Student Congress (HUSC), and played soccer, captaining the team his senior year. Two life-changing relationships that McGrath made at Hamline were with Teresa Olson, a fellow Hamline student-athlete who is now his wife, and Grant Anderson, who he helped in creating a new movement on campus known as “Campaign of Acceptance,” which evolved into Commitment to Community.

Anderson majored in sociology, was a Resident Advisor (RA), and was heavily involved in HUSC. He started reaching out to the people in his circle about trying to do something big to respond to bias incidents in the community and more importantly, bring communities of justice together. With support from sociology professor Dr. M Sheridan Embser-Herbert and former Dean of Students Marilyn Deppe, Anderson teamed up with McGrath, he says because of their “friendship and shared values,” and created the program in October of 1997.

“I think what stands out about this program was how many people were invested in its success,”Anderson said. “There were more than a dozen faculty, many staff, and a number of students who helped organize and facilitate events, reached out to communities on and off campus, and made this possible. I am not sure Dan or I could have been more proud of what had happened, and we also realized it took countless people in order to be a reality.”

McGrath agreed, mentioning a few specific individuals who he credits for helping to start C2C. They include Phillip Minor, a Hamline administrator at the time, who thought of the name “Commitment to Community,” Marilyn Deppe, numerous faculty including Embser-Herbert and Stephen Kellert (philosophy), and of course, Grant Anderson.

Their first keynote speaker was Dr. Cornel West, whose work primarily focuses on the role of race, gender, and class in American society and the means by which people act and react to their “radical conditionedness.” Anderson and McGrath worked with first-year seminar (FYSem) faculty to make the experience a requirement for first year students, a stipulation that still holds true today. Dr. West presented an hour-long speech to a packed audience at Hamline Methodist Church.

“The audience was hanging on his every word and was electric with applause when he was done,” Anderson recalls.

Anderson says that to this day he considers C2C as one of the most important things he has been a part of, and what helped him determine a career path in higher education. He went on to study at Colorado State University where he received his Master of Science in Student Affairs in Higher Education. He worked at Ohio State University and the University of Vermont before landing his current position of Assistant Director of Residential Life at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 2003.

McGrath attributes C2C to many milestones in his life including, an independent study entitled My Commitment to My Community, an internship with the Hamline Midway Coalition, and his honor’s thesis on university-community partnerships. Immediately after graduating, he started his career as a community organizer. Today, he runs one of the most respected and nationally- recognized community organizing groups in Minnesota, TakeAction Minnesota, which he founded ten years ago. TakeAction MN is network of people and organizations that that works for social, racial and economic justice.

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