On Saturday, December 11, the Kids Holiday Party will be held at the Labor Temple from 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. This year will be an outdoor drive-through event because of the pandemic; please follow current masking/distancing guidance at the time. here at the Labor Temple. There will be activities and stocking-stuffer gifts for the kids, and Santa will be there. It’s open to anyone who wants to come, so come on down!
The Minnesota AFL-CIO recently released its legislative report and scorecard for individual representatives and how they voted with Labor’s interest over the past term. Scores for Northeastern Minnesota representatives were strong, with some notable exceptions.
According to the report, legislative priorities were aimed at crisis relief, maintaining and expanding workplace rights and safety, extending paid leave for all workers, tax justice, and creating jobs and infrastructure.
The report looked at 12 key votes in the Senate and 14 votes in the House. Not every vote resulted in policy passing, and some votes were adding amendments.
SENATE DISTRICT 3
Tom Bakk, I, 30%
Bakk was the Labor-endorsed candidate in the 2020 race, and as a longtime member of the Carpenters, had a solid Labor voting
jobs omnibus, and a vote on voter ID, which did not become law.
HOUSE DISTRICT 3A
Rob Ecklund, DFL, 100%
A Steelworker, Ecklund was the Labor-endorsed candidate in the past election.
HOUSE DISTRICT 3B
Mary Murphy, DFL, 100%
Murphy has long been known as a friend of Labor.
SENATE DISTRICT 6
David Tomassoni, I, 50%
Tomassoni also bolted the DFL earlier this year. His voting record was similar to Bakk’s, although Tomassoni voted against the private school voucher program, and also voted with the AFL-CIO’s recommendation on the refinery safety amendment and the voter ID program that ultimately did not become law.
HOUSE DISTRICT 6A
Julie Sandstede, DFL, 93%
HOUSE DISTRICT 6B
Dave Lislegard, DFL, 93%
Sandstede and Lislegard were the Labor-endorsed candidates in the past election, with Sandstede winning a recount in a close vote. The two had identical voting records, voting with the AFL-CIO recommendation in all but one of the 14 House votes targeted. They both voted for an amendment on a “restore the vote” proposal. The proposal would have restored the right to vote to people who have been convicted of felonies and are no longer incarcerated; the amendment would have excluded people who had been convicted of violent or election-related felonies. The AFL-CIO opposed the amendment to the proposal; Sandstede and Lislegard voted for the amendment, but it failed.
SENATE DISTRICT 7
Jen McEwen, DFL, 100%
McEwen successfully challenged incumbent Sen. Erik Simonson in 2020 and notched a couple of Union endorsements, but was not endorsed by the Duluth Central Labor Body. She had 100% AFL-CIO rating in her first session.
HOUSE DISTRICT 7A
Jen Schultz, DFL, 100%
HOUSE DISTRICT 7B
Liz Olson, DFL, 100%
Schultz and Olson were the Labor-endorsed candidates in the past election.
SENATE DISTRICT 11
Jason Rarick, R, 0%
On his website, Rarick touts endorsements from IBEW 110 (which he has been a member of for more than 25 years), the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, the Minnesota Pipe Trades and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49.
HOUSE DISTRICT 11A
Mike Sundin, DFL, 100%
Sundin is a retired Painter and strong Labor supporter; he had the Labor endorsement in the past election.
HOUSE DISTRICT 11B
Nathan Nelson, R, 0%
Nelson was endorsed by International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49.
“These legislative priorities represent the Labor Movement’s shared state policy vision and our commitment to racial and economic justice,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy when these priorities were announced in January. “Working Minnesotans have been tested over the last year like never before and are ready for a more just and equitable state for everyone, no exceptions.”
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (PAI)—By “an overwhelming margin,” the 1,400 Kellogg’s workers who were forced to strike on October 5, voted down a proposed contract exactly two months later, the Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) announced on December 7. The union did not specify why workers rejected it.
The rejection meant the strike continues even despite a snowstorm that night at the Kellogg’s plant and headquarters in Battle Creek, Mich. (see photo). Pickets are also up at its plants in Lancaster, Pa., Memphis, Tenn., and Omaha, Neb.
“The members have spoken. The strike continues,” union President Anthony Shelton said in a statement. “The international union will continue to provide full support to our striking Kellogg’s members.
“The BCTGM is grateful for the outpouring of fraternal support we received from across the labor movement for our striking members at Kellogg’s. Solidarity is critical to this fight.”
The company then announced it would fire striking workers and exercise its “contingency plan” by hiring “replacement workers.”
Prior news reports said Kelloggs’s two-tier wage system was a big issue, as it produced huge pay differences between veteran workers and the 30% of workers who are new hires since 2015, and no health care benefits for the new hires. And the workers also said the firm forced them to toil 80 hours a week, in 12 hour shifts, including through the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the new hires are workers of color.
The news reports also said Kellogg’s offered 3% yearly raises in a five-year pact and cost of living increases in its latter years, but did not budge on curbing the overtime or the two-tier system. The overtime exploitation also led dozens of veteran workers to retire.
“The company’s made a fortune in recent years and they’re fighting to take away our necessities and all that the union has won,” Local 252G Vice President Kevin Bradshaw told The American Prospect. The widespread support for the workers Shelton cited showed up on the firm’s special twitter page for the strikers and their allies, #kelloggstrike. It was rife with statements of solidarity, including one from AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, and suggestions to consumers to buy breakfast cereals from other manufacturers, notably Post. “Today is Day 55 of the @BCTGM @Kellogg's strike, where workers are fighting for fair wages, working conditions, and an end to the exploitive two-tier system that pays new hires less,” Shuler tweeted on Dec. 1. “Are you near a picket line? Help #HoldTheLine today!” One of the longest, and most poignant messages, came from Robert Hart, whose parents worked at Battle Creek. “I am a Kellogg kid. My father worked 27 years in the machine shop. My mother worked 10 years in the corporate headquarters in the credit dept...I went to the union hall on Thanksgiving Day. I have spent many hours talking to picketers. I am a former co-worker of several of the skilled trades personnel.” “I have put 1000 or better miles on my truck in the last 6-8 weeks driving back and forth between hospitals, the lawyers office, the union hall, and the picket tents in Battle Creek,” he continued later. “My mother passed on Nov. 4th, 2021. My father and I dropped off a load of wood to the union hall two days later. I took my father to the union hall to pay his retiree dues on Nov. 10th, 2021. He participated in the strike of 1972. He read the articles in the Battle Creek Enquirer print edition.
“He truly watched the local news closely for the first time since 2018 when he began being my mother’s caregiver. My father passed away on Nov. 23rd, 2021. I, as a trustee, made a donation the day he passed. I gave it directly to the union president myself at the union hall. I have a daughter-in-law that works at Post–they are watching, they are donating, they are not the only ones. The nation is watching, the unions all across this country are watching.
“Now that they have both passed, I am dedicating some of my time every day (time and money) to helping the union in their memory. I am not looking for fame–I visit late at night, I try to motivate the workers that have no idea. I am going to fight beside the Local #3. I want to carry a picket sign after my father’s funeral on Dec. 1st, 2021. Who will join me?”
As the U.S. grapples with a shortage of workers in the warehousing industry, a new analysis from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) reveals extreme worker injury rates, high turnover, racial pay inequities, and harmful surveillance and discipline practices at Amazon warehouses in Minnesota. The report comes as the corporate giant expands its footprint throughout the country and the state, promising massive growth yet raising grave concerns for workers and communities in Minnesota and beyond.
“Amazon has not lived up to its promise of providing economic security and safe and stable employment. Instead, it has left Minnesotans with injured bodies and unsustainable, dead-end jobs,” said Rebecca Dixon, executive director of NELP. ”It’s time for Minnesota lawmakers and regulators to take action to address the harms to workers, families, and communities caused by Amazon’s operations and hold this company to the standard of safe, family-sustaining jobs and healthy, equitable workplaces.”
The report examines the newest data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Census, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics for Amazon warehouses in Minnesota, with a particular focus on the two longest-standing Amazon warehouses in the state, located in the Twin Cities suburb of Shakopee. Researchers identified the following job quality problems:
• Quadruple the injury rate of all Minnesota industries. Amazon’s own records from 2018 to 2020 show an average of one injury for every nine workers each year across its six Minnesota warehouses. This rate of injury is twice as high as non-Amazon Minnesota warehouses, and more than four times the average rate for all Minnesota industries. In 2020, no industry in Minnesota had a higher injury rate than Amazon’s flagship fulfillment center in Shakopee.
• Black workers comprise more than one in three Amazon Shakopee warehouse workers, but take home less than two-thirds of white workers’ earnings. Black workers, including many East African immigrants, are overrepresented in Scott County warehouses (which are primarily Amazon facilities), representing 38 percent of the warehousing workforce and only 8 percent of the total workforce in the Twin Cities. Although the warehouse workers are disproportionately Black, Black warehouse workers make just 63 percent of their white coworkers’ average monthly earnings in Scott County.
For every job at Shakopee Amazon warehouses, almost two workers are fired, let go, or quit. Annual turnover at Scott County warehouses is as high as 170 percent. This means that for every job at the Shakopee Amazon facilities, approximately two workers left their positions there over the course of a year. By contrast, turnover at non-Scott County warehouses in Minnesota was only about 61 percent.
Amazon’s arrival lowered warehouse wages. Real wages for warehouse workers in Minnesota declined over 14 percent between 2015 and 2018, the years after Amazon began operating from Shakopee. As of 2018, Scott County warehouses (primarily Amazon facilities) represented about a third of all warehouse employment in Minnesota.
“When Amazon came to the Twin Cities, they intentionally and heavily recruited from the East African community. Everyone was excited and we were expecting good, safe, reliable jobs. Quickly, we learned that’s not the case at Amazon,” said Abdirahman Muse, executive director of The Awood Center, a community organization supporting workers. “As this report shows, Amazon has been reinforcing racial and economic inequities, rather than addressing them.”
While Amazon has received attention nationally over poor workplace conditions, conditions at Minnesota’s Amazon distribution facilities have historically been even worse on average than at other Amazon facilities around the country, with higher rates of serious injuries and more turnover.
“It’s unacceptable that employees at Amazon’s Minnesota warehouses stand a one in nine chance of being injured in a year and are more than twice as likely to get injured as those at non-Amazon warehouses,” said U.S. Senator Tina Smith. “This disturbing treatment of Minnesota workers by one of America’s largest and most profitable employers deserves greater attention and scrutiny. I’m grateful for the Awood Center and the National Employment Law Project’s important work, which has exposed how Amazon views their workers as expendable.”
The report emphasizes that the dangerously rapid pace of work at Amazon warehouses—which the company enforces through its disciplinary practices and electronic surveillance systems—are a major cause of the injury crisis at its warehouses. In sum, the report finds that employment at Amazon is dangerous and unsustainable for Minnesota workers and places a particular burden on Twin Cities Black and East African communities.
“I personally know people with knee, back, shoulder, hand injuries. People have left the job because of injuries. They can’t go on,” said J., an Amazon worker quoted in the report.
The report outlines recommendations for state lawmakers and regulators to address the urgent needs of the workers who have been adversely affected by the company’s operations:
Hold hearings and adopt legislation to set reasonable and transparent work-pace standards and ban harmful disciplinary and monitoring practices in the warehouse industry. Minnesota lawmakers must adopt legislation, similar to that recently passed in California, to protect warehouse workers. Legislation should mandate breaks, establish fair discipline and termination policies, and prohibit employers from requiring warehouse employees to meet unsafe quotas. It should also limit the use of electronic monitoring for discipline and termination. Launch wall-to-wall MNOSHA investigation of Amazon facilities. Minnesota OSHA (MNOSHA) must conduct an inspection of Amazon’s Minnesota warehouse facilities to investigate the cause of the abnormally high rates of work-related injuries. Investigate and address occupational segregation and racial inequity at Amazon facilities. Minnesota lawmakers must require Amazon to report detailed demographic, occupational, earnings, and job tenure information—including for seasonal and subcontracted workers—and commit to a plan to improve racial equity in its workplace practices, including hiring, promotion, training, and compensation.