Teachers, allies keep heat on Ecolab, U.S. Bank as Super Bowl party ramps up

St. Paul teachers and supporters march through the streets of downtown St. Paul to the NFL’s “opening-night party” at Xcel Energy Center.

Hundreds of people whose work keeps the Twin Cities running shut down traffic outside a Super Bowl party in St. Paul tonight.

Teachers, low-wage workers and other activists called out the corporations funding the Super Bowl Host Committee – Ecolab and U.S. Bank, in particular – for prioritizing a high-profile game over local student outcomes and people’s lives.

“During this upcoming week, corporate elites will earn millions of dollars and use Minneapolis and St. Paul as their corporate playground, while we, the workers, continue to face wage theft, poverty wages and increased militarization in our communities,” Donia Caldwell, a member of CTUL’s fast-food worker organizing campaign, said during a post-march rally.

Activists marched through the streets, from Ecolab’s offices in Hamm Plaza to the Xcel Energy Center, site of the Super Bowl’s Opening Night party. As helicopters hovered overhead, marchers took over the busy intersection of Kellogg and West Seventh Street, backing up traffic in all directions.

Most people in the crowd carried signs supporting members of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, who are scheduled to take a strike-authorization vote Wednesday. Members of the union’s negotiating team have said the two sides are making no progress on teachers’ top priorities, including smaller class sizes, pre-K programming and funding for nurses, librarians and language specialists.

But teachers aren’t just negotiating with the school district. SPFT is reaching out to corporations like Ecolab and U.S. Bank, the beneficiaries of local property-tax breaks, in an effort to recoup some of the funds diverted away from the district’s general fund.

So far the corporations haven’t been receptive to the idea, SPFT President Nick Faber said.

“Ecolab has said no even though they’ve got $2.1 billion of untaxed dollars in offshore accounts. They’ve said no even though they’re going to be gaining $96 million a year through the new GOP tax bill,” Faber said. “Same with U.S. Bank, and they’re going to be getting about $1.1 billion from the new tax plan.

“And what will our students get? They’re going to get a party for millionaires and a game in the town across the river.”

While teachers called for an investment in schools, low-wage workers like Caldwell called on U.S. Bank and Ecolab to “divest” from poverty wages by supporting a $15 minimum wage in St. Paul and funding for enforcement efforts targeting wage theft across the state.

Bakery workers organizing Saturday’s Taste of Justice joined the demonstration, too. They pledged to keep shining a light on working conditions and union-busting at Franklin Street Bakery, even as co-owner Wayne Kostroski basks in the glow of his star-studded gala in St. Paul this week.

Bruce Peglow, an officer of Bakery Workers Local 22, called Franklin Street Bakery unsafe – one reason workers are trying to organize a union.

“Several weeks ago there was carbon-monoxide poisoning in the bakery,” Peglow said. “Two of the workers went to Hennepin County Medical Center. One woman, if she’d have been there five more minutes, she would be dead.”

Inside the Xcel Energy Center, Black Lives Matter activists succeeded in dropping a banner supporting the demonstration’s theme: “Divest from violence. Invest in community. Imagine what’s possible.”

Trackbacks

  1. […] Teachers, low-wage workers and progressive groups here are using the Super Bowl spotlight to lift up their own campaigns, and some of their messages are obviously inspired by the way pro athletes have used their platform […]

  2. […] in order to get that done,” SPFT President Nick Faber told hundreds of people gathered for a rally downtown St. Paul Monday. “But our district has refused to talk to us about many of these […]

  3. […] SPFT called on the district to join its members in pressuring tax-exempt large nonprofits and corporate tax dodgers to pay their fair […]

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