MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Twin Cities union leaders gathered Saturday in Minneapolis to honor progress made in Minnesota for workers' rights, just as the labor movement is seeing a resurgence locally and nationally.
The annual barbeque, hosted by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, had several union speakers in attendance, including Sarah Beth. Beth was at the forefront of a push that saw the Minneapolis’ Trader Joe grocery store become only the second in the country to unionize.
"On this Labor Day Weekend, we are here to explore and celebrate the new energy that is sweeping the country," Beth told a crowd.
Ethan Paul Tinklenberg was also on hand. He is a key figure in the push to unionize Starbucks employees in the Twin Cities.
"I just think everyone here needs to recognize that this is a historic moment," Tinklenberg said. "It’s time for us all to stand up and say we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. We’re sick and tired of $15 [an hour], we need better than $15 [an hour]."
Both Tinklenberg and Beth are pushing for Minnesotans to have a larger voice in the workplace and the right to bargain collectively.
"We can’t go through this like we’ve been going through this anymore," Tinklenberg said. "We can’t afford rent, we can’t afford the $150 grocery bills."
While their fight continues, now more than 15,000 nurses are preparing for a fight of their own, after signaling what could be the largest nurses’ strike in U.S. history. It would last three days, starting on September 12, unless hospital executives meet the demands of nurses for higher pay and improved working conditions.
"Hopefully the employer listens… because I personally don’t see how’s they’re going to replace 15,000 nurses stretching from Duluth all the way to the cities," Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary Turner said; adding that if the nurses don’t get what they’re asking for, Minnesota’s hospital systems will likely lose them to higher paying traveling nurse jobs.
"Unless you’ve been a patient in the hospital and you put on your call light and no one‘s there to answer it you don’t really realize what really goes on behind closed doors," Turner said of staffing levels.
Meanwhile, the hospitals say a strike would be illegal because they weren’t given the proper notice required by the law. They're asking the nurses’ union to allow a federal mediator to step in to their negotiations.