Heading to the great Minnesota get-together? Stop by the Labor Pavilion for live music and entertainment, interactive exhibits and several opportunities to take action in support of working Minnesotans.
The Labor Pavilion is open daily throughout the fair at the corner of Dan Patch and Cooper, 1657 Dan Patch Ave.
The Minnesota AFL-CIO coordinates daily programming at the pavilion, featuring professional entertainers who are members of the Twin Cities Musicians Union, the Screen Actors Guild and other unions. The Minnesota AFL-CIO’s Labor Pavilion blog provides a guide to programming.
Individual unions and labor organizations also host kiosks on the pavilion. Here’s a rundown of some of this year’s offerings:
• Trades demonstrations
Several Building Trades unions are putting their crafts on display at the Labor Pavilion. That includes members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 10, who craft copper sheets into roses – complete with prickly thorns – from their Labor Pavilion kiosk. The roses are awarded to fairgoers who answer a trivia question correctly.
Operating Engineers Local 49 hosts a “sandbox simulator,” offering kids (or adults) an opportunity to try their hand an excavator – on a much smaller scale, of course; and members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers power a laptop at their kiosk with a solar panel attached to the roof.
Twin Cities Letter Carriers and Postal Workers are co-hosting a kiosk to promote the nationwide boycott of Staples. All four postal unions have backed the “Stop Staples” campaign, prompted by the U.S. Postal Service’s pilot program to place service counters inside Staples stores.
The counters are not staffed by sworn USPS employees, but by Staples employees who, when working full time, earn about $18,000 per year – and receive minimal training on how to handle the mail.
At the Labor Pavilion kiosk, supporters can sign a postcard to Staples executives pledging to join the boycott. They also can read a heavily redacted copy of the agreement between the USPS and Staples.
• Moving Minnesota
Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees are using the fair to make a public case for new investments in the state’s transportation infrastructure.
Visitors to AFSCME Council 5’s kiosk can sign up to support Move MN, a coalition of more than 200 non-profit and union organizations pushing for long-term, sustainable transportation investments, including roads, bridges, transit, bike and walk connections.
“Our infrastructure is in such bad shape,” Council 5 retiree Tony Peterson said. “We want a permanent solution for the whole state of Minnesota – not just another makeshift solution or quick-fix. We need lawmakers to act now to support Minnesota 20 years down the road.”
• The scheduling puzzle
Last year at the fair, unions and Working America, an organization for workers who do not have the benefit of a union on the job, used the State Fair to ramp up their successful campaign to raise Minnesota’s minimum wage. This year, Working America is making the transition to a new campaign to give more workers access to paid-sick days and fair scheduling.
“Raising the wage doesn’t help if you don’t get enough hours, or you don’t get paid on days when you’re not working because you’re sick,” said Jess Alexander, an organizer for Working America in Minnesota.
An interactive display at the Working America kiosk allows fairgoers to visualize their “scheduling puzzle” using blocks that represent time spent on work, family time, sleep, etc.
• Remembering Teamsters’ strike
The Remember 1934 Committee, which hosted an 80th anniversary commemoration of the historic Minneapolis Teamsters strike earlier this summer, is using the Labor Pavilion to continue its efforts to put a plaque on the site where two strikers were killed.
Linda Leighton, granddaughter of strike leader Ray Dunn, staffed the Remember 1934 kiosk on the opening day of the fair. She said the goal is to raise $5,000 to place a historic marker at 3rd Street and 6th Avenue North in Minneapolis.
• Patient safety campaign
Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association are enlisting supporters for their Safe Patient Standards campaign at the fair. Molly Henderson, a nurse at United Hospital in St. Paul, said unsafe staffing levels continue to threaten patient care at hospitals across the state.
“We’re here letting people know that this campaign isn’t really about us as nurses, it’s about you, as the public,” Henderson said. “It’s about caring for patients, keeping them safe. And we can’t do that if there isn’t the right number of nurses to care for the number of patients in the hospital.”