‘Home Hankies’ fueled seniors’ rally for tax justice

Minnesota’s seniors waved World Series-inspired “Home” Hankies at a Capitol rally focused on making the state’s tax system fairer for people living on fixed incomes.

Minnesota’s seniors waved World Series-inspired “Home” Hankies at a Capitol rally focused on making the state’s tax system fairer for people living on fixed incomes.

In October 1987, “homer hankies” provided the magic the Minnesota Twins needed to win their first World Series championship. Five months later, Minnesota’s seniors attempted to recapture the magic during a rally for tax fairness at the Capitol.

Seniors waved “home hankies,” during an event March 2, 1988, co-sponsored by the Minnesota Senior Federation and the labor-backed Minnesota Citizens for Tax Justice. The hankies – printed with the message, “Don’t tax us out of our homes!” – were delivered to Gov. Rudy Perpich after the rally, along with personal messages about tax issues, The Union Advocate reported.

Speakers at the rally focused on making the state’s tax system fairer for people living on fixed incomes. They advocated restoring cuts to the renters’ tax credit and removing sales taxes on non-prescription drugs like aspirin.

When lawmakers addressed the rally, retirees weren’t shy about making their feelings known.

“Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL- Erskine, was greeted with loud boos as he addressed the group,” The Advocate reported. “He said legislators planned to discuss all of the issues mentioned, but added, ‘More than likely you won’t get everything you want.’”

[The Union Advocate’s “This Month in the Archives” feature offers a look back at what the newspaper was reporting from 5 to 100 years ago. Our digital archives are online, searchable and free to anyone. Click here for access.]

• 75 Years Ago: Fighting communism

There was no room for communists in the labor movement or the Farmer-Labor Party, the March 24, 1938, edition of The Union Advocate proclaimed on its front page.

After three communists were expelled from the central committee of the Ramsey County Farmer-Labor Party, The Advocate weighed in with an editorial endorsing the purge – and warning union leaders that compromise with communists “would be suicidal.”

With an eye on the upcoming Farmer Labor Party state convention, where delegates would endorse a candidate for governor, The Advocate warned union delegates to prepare to hear “all the usual pleas and arguments used by the communists.” That included “pleas for tolerance, unity and harmony,” as well as “eloquent appeals to leave red-baiting to the Republicans, to the reactionary, time-serving daily press and to the hirelings of big business.”

The Advocate editorial brushed off these arguments, taking a pragmatic approach instead.

“Labor is well aware of the fact that the common weapon of reaction is to attempt to discredit the Labor movement with unfounded charges that it is communistic, that it is financed from Moscow, that it is un-American and antisocial,” the editorial said.

For this reason, the American Federation of Labor had barred communists from membership.

“Let Labor remember that it cannot break political bread with those it refuses to accept into its own household,” the editorial added. “Let Labor remember that communists are no more desirable in a political organization in which Labor has a vital interest than they are in the trade union movement from which they are specifically excluded.”

• 50 Years Ago: Unions rally against legislative attacks

In response to “the most vicious anti-union attacks in many years,” more than 450 labor activists from across Minnesota rallied March 12, 1938, at the St. Paul Labor Temple, approving by acclamation a course of action containing “various counter-measures.”

The most pressing concern, The Advocate reported, was legislation being pushed by the Minnesota Employers Association to disqualify thousands of workers from eligibility for unemployment insurance – and to “to reduce sharply the duration of payments for countless of thousands of others.”

Union leaders urged bargaining units across the state to put their employers on notice that they intended to negotiate supplementary unemployment benefits into their next contract – a way of “winning back at the bargaining table what is lost by legislation.”

Additionally, Minnesota AFL-CIO President Robert Olson warned of legislative efforts to make it illegal for unions to contribute to political causes or campaigns. He said the rally sent a strong message that unions would stand together against attempts to erode their political power.

“We have been slowed down before,” Olson said, “but they have never stopped us and they never will.”

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