Respect us, protect us, pay us

On Thursday, essential workers delivered 5000 petitions to Minnesota lawmakers calling for them to pass the Essential Workers Emergency Leave Act (EWELA).

“You know what we’ve sacrificed,” said Mary Turner, nurse and president of Minnesota Nurses Association, to nurse and Senator Erin Murphy, one of the authors of EWELA, as she handed over brown boxes containing thousands of petitions from people all over Minnesota to deliver to legislators in their special session.

A group of essential workers, including janitors, education support professionals, and childcare professionals gathered in front of the Minnesota State Capitol to remind people of the sacrifices essential workers are making during the pandemic, urging the government to include EWELA in the forthcoming budget. Eva Lopez, who has been a janitor for 10 years and is vice president of SEIU Local 26, said over a thousand workers in the union have missed work because of COVID-19. Four have died.

“They sign petitions because they care for us and want our government to care, too,” said Bill Schwandt, president of Bloomington Federation of Paraprofessionals.

Whose streets? Our streets!

Happy belated birthday to Deona Marie Erickson, who would’ve turned 32 years old yesterday.

On Sunday, a driver attacked protestors in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, killing Erickson and injuring others. The protestors are still demanding justice for Winston Smith. A lack of transparency surrounds the federal task force that shot and killed him. Businesses and elected officials are focused on the narrative that civil disobedience is the top safety concern for the commercial industry in the area, rather than the brutality against community members in proximity to local businesses, and the police’s failure to de-escalate.

Standing up to violence

  • In The Nation, organizer and labor activist Kim Kelly describes the violence targeted at striking workers from Warrior Met Coal mines in Alabama and their fight to protect their jobs.

  • A thought-provoking reflection in CrimethInc. contextualizes the culture of vehicular attacks and why protest actions are seen as obstacles rather than public manifestations of grief and togetherness.

Unpacking abuse in the workplace 

  • From The New York Times: reporters Jodi Kantor, Karen Weise, and Grace Ashford found that an Amazon warehouse in NYC ignored workers and their concerns during the pandemic. In 2019, data shows Black associates were 50% more likely to be fired than white peers.

  • Rainesford Stauffer writes in Teen Vogue about the myth that young people deserve to be exploited as a rite of passage, and how a pay-your-dues mentality in the workplace reflects larger societal values that need to change.

Perspectives from essential workers

  • Listen or read: this piece from The Atlantic in which Michael Holtz spends six months in a meatpacking plant in Kansas is an intimate dissection of a dangerous industry that depends on the work of immigrants.

  • Solidarity with janitors on #JusticeforJanitors Day. Janitors are essential workers, and they deserve equal pay and protections on the job. June 15th was Justice for Janitors Day!

  • Solidarity with domestic workers on International Domestic Workers Day! Domestic workers are essential workers also deserving of respect, recognition, and protection. June 16th was International Domestic Workers Day!

  • The University of Minnesota announced it is not requiring students, staff or faculty to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the 2021-22 school year. Read: an open letter highlighting concerns from those affiliated with the University. What do you think?

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Are you interested in reporting on workers?

  • Apply to be Prism’s Midwest Workers Rights’ Correspondent by June 21st. Your writing will appear on Workday!

We leave you with an excerpt from Adrienne Rich’s poem Natural Resources:

My heart is moved by all I cannot save

So much has been destroyed

I have to cast my lot with those, who, age after age,

Perversely, with no extraordinary

Power, reconstitute the world.

Casting our lot with you all. We are each other’s harvest.