Twin Cities workers headed for massive coordinated strikes
SEIU Local 26 President Greg Nammacher speaks at a press conference about potential simultaneous strikes by thousands of workers in front of St. Paul City Hall on Feb. 22, 2024. | Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL, Minn.—More than 13,000 workers around the Twin Cities—Teachers, Laborers, Service Employees and United Food and Commercial Workers, transit workers—are headed for coordinated strikes in mid-March unless their bosses, including Minneapolis city officials, reach new pacts with their union locals.

The potential strikes by the “What Could We Win Together?” coalition could see 8,000 janitors and security guards, members of SEIU Local 26, take a hike. Joining them would be 3,700 teachers and staffers from the St. Paul Federation of Educators/AFT, 1,000 workers at 12 nursing homes represented by Local 26 and by UFCW Local 663 and 400 Minneapolis city workers, members of Laborers Local 363. Also in the coalition: 2,000 Metro Transit workers in Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005.

All but ATU already overwhelmingly authorized strikes. The nursing home workers plan to walk on March 5 and March 7, not just over pay—they want $25/hour, double what many earn now—but over bosses’ labor law-breaking, formally unfair labor practices. ATU is in mediation with Metro Transit.

The other unionists plan to take a hike on March 13, unless bosses come to their senses and provide fair contracts. Local 1005 “is demanding COLA+1 (cost of living adjustment plus 1%) for our members in this next contract. Inflation has been a huge burden on our members and working people. We need wage increases that make up for what we lost to inflation.”

“To stand in solidarity” is “why we are coming together,” their joint platform, posted by Local 26, declares. Solidarity will “make our voices louder, but mostly we are coming together to win. Winning for ourselves, our families, each other, our communities, and those in our society who need it most.”

Local 26 President Greg Nammacher, who started working on the joint contract expirations and walkouts long ago, told a February 26 press conference the planned mass walkouts will draw more public attention and, the unions hope, support.

“When unions are isolated from their communities, it is very hard for them to make the kind of advances that working people deserve,” Nammacher told the Minnesota Reformer in a later interview. “If we’re going to have big demands, we do need to be in alignment with our community.”

While all the workers plan to walk, their priorities vary.

Laborers Local 363 told its members that “after over six months since your negotiating team began bargaining, City of Minneapolis negotiators still refuse to engage in meaningful discussions about worker health and safety protections, sustainable staffing levels and work schedules, and increasing wages to rates competitive with surrounding metro area cities. They continue to stall, deny information requests, and demand concessions.”

Local 363 members chimed in, too, via X/Twitter.

“If it takes a strike to fight for a fair wage and contract, for each and every one of us, let us vote ‘Yes!’” tweeted Traffic Maintenance and Repair Division worker Kristine Haney. Sewer and Water Division’s Scott Yahr added improved worker safety to the list.

“We are being paid over six dollars less per hour compared to market rates. Shockingly, the city is paying temporary workers more than us for the same work,” tweeted Solid Waste and Recycling Division worker Robert Messinger Jr.

SEIU Local 26’s own priorities include raises to cover the 20% inflation since 2019, pensions workers can live on after retirement, “affordable and equitable health care,” and safer and healthier working conditions, including freedom from racial, gender and other discrimination on the job.

Campaign-wide priorities also include higher pay for teachers and staff—the issue that is driving the St. Paul teachers to join the strike authorization votes and Minneapolis’s teachers to support the cause. The teachers’ unions also demand “full-service community schools,” similar to the “wraparound schools,” providing social services, too, which the Teachers (AFT) advocate nationally.

Other priorities include measures to close the Twin Cities’ racial wealth and income gap, which the coalition says is the widest in the U.S., providing affordable housing and rent stabilization. They’re rapidly rising, as developers convert buildings to luxury housing.

“We can’t rely on developers to provide affordable housing,” Local 26 says.

“A lack of publicly owned housing doesn’t just hurt renters, who due to a lack of other options are at the mercy of these corporate developers and property managers, but through tax cuts taxpayers end up subsidizing them.”

Demands to end wage theft on the job, a particular cause of construction unions, are in the platform. The Twin Cities building trades have been especially active, along with the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) workers center, in exposing wage theft. That center, as well as the state AFL-CIO and the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, all support the general strike plans.

“The issues…sometimes feel astronomical,” the joint platform says. “In Minnesota we know too well the racism, prejudice and indignities that BIPOC people face in their jobs, communities, by police and other institutions.

“These divisions are used against us. And workers were harmed by the coronavirus pandemic, “inflation that is pushing people out of our homes and out of our communities, women seeing their rights being stripped away (and) LGBTQ folks are having to flee some states enacting policies meant to harm them.

“Schools are facing huge challenges, all while our planet is burning. The structures that exist in our society are used by the corporate elite to continue exploiting our labor. Turning us against our neighbors and our coworkers, and leading us to believe that people different than you deserve less. That’s why we’re coming together.”

We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, please support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today. Thank you!


Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.