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Commentary
Remember 2021 not only for pandemic, but for labor wins

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, December 18, 2021

By Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou, President,
Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation

As we approach 2022, now is the perfect time to reflect on the high points of 2021. While this was a challenging year on so, so many fronts, it was not without major victories that we all should share. 2021 was a year of increased union activity and union support amidst a global pandemic.   After all, it was 2021 that brought us “Striketober!”

We rang in 2021 by swearing in our new Labor-endorsed President, Joe Biden. This win came despite multiple attempts to overthrow the election results and our very own government. Subsequently, a union member, Marty Walsh, was appointed as Labor Secretary and the American Rescue Plan was signed into law. More recently, a historic federal infrastructure package was passed, providing much needed investment in what holds us together and an also an unprecedented investment in jobs.

January also kicked off a wave of new unions being formed throughout the year. OPEIU was first with their Augsburg University announcement. And then the announcements just kept rolling in monthly across all parts of Minnesota’s labor movement. A partial list of organizing wins: OPEIU, also at the Minnesota Freedom Fund and Land Stewardship Project; UNITE HERE, at Brother Justus Whiskey and Du Nord Craft Spirits; UFCW, at Half Price Books; and SEIU at Allina, United and Mercy Hospitals.

The end of January brought on a major fight involving the Teamsters and the Building Trades at the Marathon oil refinery. Throughout the coldest months of the year, workers and communities stood shoulder to shoulder to protect worker safety.

A succession of strikes, many focused on worker safety, continued to build as the year progressed. SEIU window washers walked off the job and won gains. The Minnesota Nurses Association went on strike at Allina WestHealth for respect for critical frontline healthcare providers.

As winter gave way to early spring, union members launched a massive effort to distribute food all across our communities to families who were facing food insecurity or other hardships. An ongoing special effort to assist hospitality workers continued to grow and support those frontline workers in a decimated industry.  

Unions also were active throughout the spring and summer fighting for and advocating for racial justice for all and directly serving our communities during some of the most tumultuous and difficult times we’ve had to share. Some unions even found innovative public safety programs to launch within their own industries in a proactive response to the changes we all know are needed. 

In 2022, let’s come together in solidarity and organize to win a better life for our co-workers, our families, and our communities.

As vaccines started to roll out in the spring, unions stepped up to raise awareness, host clinics and support their members throughout the process.

As summer gave way to fall and the height of the election season, unions came together and made organizing and growth the top issue for our political endorsements. We met with more than 70 candidates for office all throughout our region, educating them on our issues. Union members knocked on doors for our endorsed candidates and helped shape the narrative regarding workers from city councils to school boards.

All year round, the contract fights were battled and picket lines were busy. From SEIU at Twin Cities hospitals, CWA at AT&T, ATU at Metro Transit, MNA at Fairview and Abbott hospitals, Bloomington paraprofessionals at the Bloomington Public Schools, AFSCME at Hennepin County and the University of Minnesota, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers at the Minneapolis Public Schools, Letter Carriers and Postal Workers at the U.S. Postal Service and even to workers in IATSE in the Hollywood film industry, just to name a few.

Also, all year round, essential workers made their voices heard and demanded pay, respect and safety. UNITE HERE won a recall ordinance in Minneapolis, SEIU advocated for hourly school employees, warehouse workers demanded respect in facilities from Amazon and beyond, and educators advocated for a safe return to school. A coalition of unions fought vigorously for front-line pay for months.

This is just a sampling of our collective wins. Whatever victories your union gained, please celebrate and share them widely. Here’s to ringing in the New Year where even more opportunity awaits us. In 2022, let’s come together in solidarity and organize to win a better life for our co-workers, our families, and our communities.

 

Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou was re-elected December 11, 2019 to a second four-year term as president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

Contact MRLF president Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou at 612-321-5670 or chelsie@minneapolisunions.org.

 



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