Katie Quarles, a nurse at United Hospital in St. Paul, was among 40 union members who answered the call for volunteers to take action Saturday in support of a $15 minimum wage in Minneapolis.
“Fighting for higher wages for working people is what the labor movement does,” Quarles said before knocking on doors in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood with Alec Johnson, a member of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005.
Union members like Quarles and Johnson are helping 15 Now Minnesota gather signatures on a petition that could compel the city to hold a vote on a $15 minimum wage, by way of a city-charter amendment.
Organizer Kip Hedges said the threshold for putting $15 on the November ballot is around 7,000 signatures, but the campaign’s goal is to file the petition with closer to 20,000. Already, over 4,000 people in Minneapolis have signed.
A former member of the Machinists union fired by Delta Air Lines for his outspoken support of a $15 minimum wage at MSP Airport, Hedges said unions have played a critical role in helping pass $15 minimum-wage laws in cities like Seattle and Los Angeles.
“Our unions are strong when we’re working in coalition with other groups in the community,” Hedges said.
The event Saturday was such a success, organizers plan another labor door-knock in support of the 15 Now petition drive June 18, starting at 11 a.m. out of the Communications Workers of America Local 7200 Hall, 3521 E. Lake St., Minneapolis.
“Fifteen dollars per hour isn’t even enough; it’s just a starting point,” Mona Meyer, president of the CWA Minnesota State Council, said. “And success in Minneapolis spills over into other areas like St. Paul.”
Union members like Quarles and Johnson see the need to raise wages each day on the job. Johnson, a Metro Transit operator, gets low-wage workers to and from their jobs, while Quarles, a member of the Minnesota Nurses Association, provides care when workers and their families get sick.
“As a nurse, I see it as a public health issue,” she said. “People working for poverty wages can’t afford real food, and many have to work more than one job to make ends meet. If you have to work all the time, you don’t have time to cook for your family.”
“When you lift the minimum,” Johnson added, “it lifts the conditions for everyone.”
To sign the petition, stop by the MPIRG offices in Minneapolis, at 2722 University Ave. SE., or join the door-knock June 18!
Union groups supporting the 15 Now petition drive in Minneapolis include: CWA Local 7250, the CWA Minnesota State Council, Machinists Local 1833, the Machinists Minnesota State Council, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59, MNA, the Minnesota State Association of Letter Carriers and Teamsters Local 320.