NOC is proud to endorse Jeremiah Ellison for Minneapolis City Council, Ward 5.
As Jeremiah describes his vision: “For me, dreaming is a political orientation.” Jeremiah’s political orientation to dreaming means he operates with a sense of joyful and open-hearted possibility. His calling as an artist has carried into his campaign for office, bringing neighbors together to co-create his platform and campaign the same way he brings people together to create murals. Born and raised on the Northside, he is deeply rooted in the strength, survival, and dreams of our community.
For more than a decade, the city council members of north Minneapolis have talked about our community and our neighborhoods as though the constituents themselves are the source of our deep rooted structural problems. Jeremiah draws on our community’s strengths. He knows that we have a strong community vitality and a bond that many people don’t see. And his approach to framing our community from a place of strength asset mapping puts power back into the community. Jeremiah knows that many of the problems in north Minneapolis don’t start in north Minneapolis -- that we need systemic transformations on issues like living wages, affordable housing, and alternative public safety models to create a city that works for all of us. Unlike the current council member, he unapologetically embraces community based solutions, like a $15 minimum wage with no tip penalty and public safety models beyond policing. Jeremiah sees more than problems in our community. He sees possibility. He dares to imagine what a city could look like when we put the needs of our most marginalized community members first, and imagine the kind of policy solutions and community engagement that could make Ward 5 more vibrant and creative than ever.
Jeremiah’s ideas are both well thought out and aspirational. He has a clear and thorough understanding of the political process, and is committed to building access to democracy for everyone in the community. He’s dedicated to a robust community dialogue and he doesn’t settle even for bold ideas -- he presses to do more. His creative approach to problem-solving as an artist would be refreshingly welcome on the City Council and could help generate the creative solutions our city needs. Jeremiah’s vision is not about himself -- it’s about co-creating solutions for everyone in the community. We’re proud to offer NOC’s endorsement for his campaign for city council in 2017.
The food service industry in the United States has set itself apart from other countries through its unspoken requirement of leaving a tip. Yet, the origin of this custom isn't only racist, but has a direct legacy from slavery.
Tipping was a custom that wealthy traveling Americans brought back from England but the practice was met with disgust and was seen as "despicable, un-democratic, and wholly un-American." But when former slaves began working at restaurants and railway companies such as the Pullman Car Company, owners didn't want to pay them and so they adopted tipping, leaving it up to patrons to determine what pay their server deserved. In 1902, John Speed wrote the following in a newspaper:
"I have never known any but negro servants. Negroes take tips, of course; one expects it of them–it is a token of their inferiority. But to give money to a white man was embarrassing to me. I felt defiled by his debasement and servility... no man who is a voter in this country... is in the least justified in being servile."
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. "Negro waiter." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1886-10.
By having a tipping policy, the owners were able to exploit the freed slaves by not paying them any wages. Unsurprisingly, these workers were rarely tipped and would often quite literally work for nothing. Post Civil War tipping policies created a situation for tipped wage workers that was very similar to the slavery that they had just escaped. Those who originally proposed tipping post Civil War believed that the workers were not worth the value of an actual wage. Pullman car porters formed a union -- one of the first led by black workers -- and organized themselves to demand a higher wage outside of the tips they were receiving, which they won. This left the practice of tipping only in the hospitality industry, including restaurants.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. "A waiter at the Galt House, Louisville, Kentucky" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1874.
Today, the racist origins of tipping have manifested themselves into continued racialized tipping practices. Minnesota has a proud history of one of the few "One Fair Wage" states where tipped and non-tipped workers earn the same minimum wage. But in 42 states, employers are permitted to pay tipped workers a subminimum wage, as low as $2.13/hour. In states with a tip penalty, tips act as a replacement for a reliable wage, rather than a supplement to it. The sentiment of tipping remains the same: it is the idea that an employer should not necessarily have to pay workers a full wage, but rather the workers should be paid directly by those they serve… if they earn it. Tips depend on the customer's mood, the shift, the weather, the day of the week. These “ifs” and “maybes” in tipped work create uncertainties and harvests inequalities for tipped workers. Studies have shown that in states with a tip penalty, where restaurant employees have to rely solely on their tips instead of using them to supplement a reliable wage, they face more sexual harassment -- both because they are at the customer's whim to receive the tips they need, and also because they face increased pressure from managers to objectify themselves. Studies have also shown that non-white restaurant workers make 56% less than their white coworkers.
Photograph by Frank Willming, Pullman Palace Car Company Collection, "[African American waiter serving three women in Pullman car: photoprint]" National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. 1935.
Throughout the course of the campaign for a $15 minimum wage in Minneapolis and St. Paul, how to handle tipping has been a huge question for employers, food service workers, politicians, and advocates alike. The Minnesota Restaurant Association is sponsoring a campaign for a lower minimum wage for tipped workers called "Pathway to $15." This campaign, driven by corporate lobbyists, proposes an untenable system that counts tips toward wages, saying they will make up the difference up to $15/hour if tips fall short. However, making up this difference is already the law in 42 states -- and it's not working. Department of Labor studies in these states show that employers fail to make up the difference 84% of the time. A tip is a tip, and should be treated like one; it should not be a substitute for employer-paid wages.
As this conversation heats up, some people -- most of them white -- have been extremely offended by the idea that tipping derives from slavery. But it's a historical fact. And before we move forward -- or backward -- we need to know where we've come from.
Jayaraman, Saru. Forked: A New Standard for American Dining. Oxford University Press, 2016.
Scott, William Rufus. The itching palm: A study of the habit of tipping in America. Penn Publishing Company, 1916.
Segrave, Kerry. Tipping: An American social history of gratuities. McFarland, 1998.
The City Council makes important decisions about our city from a $15 minimum wage to funding for the police. In 2017, all 13 City Council seats and the mayor are up for election -- and we have an opportunity to elect candidates who will transform our city into one of the most boldly progressive in the country and win real gains for our communities. This year, NOC plans to make our first ever endorsements in Minneapolis city council races.
One of the most important ways to have your voice heard in the 2017 election is to caucus April 4. A caucus is the first step in Minnesota's political process that political parties use to endorse candidates for public office, determine a slate of issues of importance, and bring democracy to action. In the 2017 Minneapolis elections, this is an opportunity to elect progressive candidates for city council and mayor who reflect our communities and our priorities. To learn more about the caucus process, come to our next caucus training on Saturday, March 18. Scroll to the bottom of this page to find your ward and caucus location.
We began our endorsement process with North Minneapolis candidates, starting with a forum on February 16. You can watch video from that forum here.
Then, check out completed candidate questionnaires here. We'll update this page with responses from candidates throughout the city.
Ward 4: Phillipe Cunningham, Stephanie Gasca, Marcus Harcus, Barb Johnson, and Phillip Murphy
Ward 5: Jeremiah Ellison, Raeisha Williams, and Blong Yang