Making history in 2015

2015 was an unforgettable year. Despite losing our office in a fire that was ruled a probable arson, it was a year of incredible growth for us. We’ve more than doubled our full-time staff, moved into a new office, and had important wins in all our issue areas—all while building power, community, and strength in communities of color. And we’ve got plans to make 2016 even bigger. 

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At a member meeting in January, our members decided our priorities would be workers’ rights, including fair scheduling, earned sick time, an end to wage theft, and a $15 minimum wage; transit; voting rights; and police accountability. 

Workers’ rights

  • We launched campaigns at the state legislature for earned sick time and fair scheduling with the help of a powerful coalition—and successfully prevented the state legislature from stopping cities like Minneapolis from passing their own workers’ rights laws.

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  • We organized hundreds of workers throughout Minneapolis, especially workers of color whose voices are often disregarded. 
  • Hours before a national day of action for workers’ rights on April 15, our office burned to the ground in a probable arson. We kept right on going—and NOC members led the march.

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  • As a result of grassroots pressure for fair scheduling around the country, including here in Minneapolis, major retailers began ending their on-call schedule practices. The Gap ended its on-call schedule practice just days after a NOC member published an op ed in the Guardian about the tumultuousness of these unpredictable schedules.
  • Our organizers confronted President Obama’s chief economic advisor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and asked him to use an executive order to extend earned sick time to federal employees and contractors. Weeks later, President Obama did just that, extending earned sick time benefits to 300,000 federal employees.

  • We launched a campaign with the Minneapolis Works coalition for earned sick time, fair scheduling, an end to wage theft, and a $15 minimum wage in the city of Minneapolis. Throughout the fall, hundreds of workers, predominantly workers of color, came to City Hall weekly to demand that the City Council prioritize stronger workers’ rights.

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  • Our organizing team worked with temp workers at Target Field, who are predominantly black, often receive their schedules only hours in advance, and frequently don’t get paid for all the hours they work, to shed light on the abuses they face at the Twins stadium and organize for better conditions.

  • After meeting with workers, the subcontracting companies agreed that the temp agencies at Target Field likely owed back pay, but refused to take responsibility for enforcing it. 12000948_10153298345348742_4312047177119482155_o
  • We requested a formal investigation from the U.S. Department of Labor into temp agencies at Target Field that are systematically taking advantage of black workers.

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  • Because of the workers’ movement we built, and despite significant business opposition, Minneapolis became the first city in the country to hold a vigorous citywide conversation on comprehensive change to scheduling practices for hourly workers.

Packed City Hall

  • We developed relationships with many small, medium, and large businesses that are willing to work toward mutually beneficial ordinances for workers’ rights.

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  • As a result of our movement, the Minneapolis City Council appointed a 15-member Workplace Regulations Partnership to make recommendations for an earned sick time ordinance, including our own organizer Ron Harris.
  • And the City Council included $200,000 in the city budget for enforcement of current and future labor laws, giving teeth to future labor standards and strengthening protections against wage theft.

Transit

  • We successfully stopped factions of the legislature from cutting funding to public transit as part of a broad coalition.

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  • After our transit surveys exposed a need for lower fares, Metro Transit announced a pilot program for reduced $1 fares for low-income riders.

Voting Rights 

  • In part because of our work and the public pressure we built for voting rights, the bill to restore voting rights to 47,000 people with a past criminal conviction got farther than it’s ever gotten in ten years at the State Capitol.

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  • NOC members filled the Capitol as Felon Voting Rights Restoration passed through two Senate committees.
  • For the first time ever, the bill to restore the vote passed the full Senate—twice.

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  • Due to our pressure, Governor Dayton adopted voting rights as a priority in the special session—the first time he has made it a priority.

Police Accountability

  • We worked with the ACLU to produce a report showing outrageous racial disparities in low-level arrests in Minneapolis. Black and Native American people in Minneapolis are nearly nine times more likely to be arrested for low-level offenses than whites.

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  • We helped lead the charge to repeal lurking and spitting laws in Minneapolis—two of the low-level ordinances disproportionately enforced against people of color.

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  • After hundreds of NOC members petitioned the Minneapolis Police Department for better data on MPD stop-and-frisks, which had never been tracked, MPD began tracking the race and gender information of people they stop. 

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  • During the 4th Precinct occupation, our new office served as a safe community hub where people could drop supplies, build community, and even get haircuts.

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  • When Council Member Blong Yang and Mayor Hodges announced with only three hours’ notice their intention to add $605,000 to the city budget for fortifications to the 4th Precinct, we mobilized a hundred people to City Hall to testify and stop this amendment—an unprecedented stop in the flow of money to police.

Growing

    • When our office and much of our beloved block burned down in April, we raised and distributed $23,000 for our neighbors who had lost their homes.

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  • We moved into a new office down the block and began to envision a permanent home to grow, dream, build, and organize.

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  • We began the work of organizing in and expanding to St. Paul.
  • Our Rising Tides organizing training built important connections between racial justice and climate justice, and helped us train a new generation of leaders.

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  • We sent NOC leaders to Cleveland for the Movement for Black Lives convening to build and grow with organizers from around the country.

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  • We hosted two organizers from Slovakia and Bulgaria this fall as part of an exchange program with the U.S. State Department and are thrilled to be sending two of our organizers to Europe to complete the exchange in February.
  • We launched an education campaign for community schools.

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  • We announced that in 2016 we will be launching a #BlackAgendaMN to fully incorporate criminal justice into our platform, build independent political power, close racial disparities and bring back black joy:

 

We're looking forward to making 2016 even bigger. Please make a year-end donation to build our #BlackAgendaMN and an even more powerful 2016!

Thanks for being part of NOC. We can't wait to build with you in 2016. Happy new year.

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