In this episode of All Things Co-op, Cinar and Kevin talk with Erik Esse, the producer of the new documentary The Co-op Wars. The Co-op Wars traces the history of the food cooperative movement in the mid to late 1970s in Minnesota's Twin Cities. The rapid development of the food co-op network in the area prompted a split between anarchist "hippies" and Bolsheviks who styled themselves as the “Cooperative Organization” and set about taking over the People's Warehouse by force. The film provides powerful lessons for cooperative organizations and activists today. As Erik and the ATC guys dissect the film and its implications, they touch on the role of traditional politics, the limits of "third-worldism" in the first world, the mainstreaming of co-ops, the potential influence of COINTELPRO, and much more.
Minneapolis, Minnesota – The corner of 47th Street and Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis was quiet for the first time after spirited drumming and chants of, “What’s disgusting? Union busting!” filled the air from July 31-August 1. Employees of the Cedar Avenue Starbucks had returned to work after a two-day strike in protest of the company’s refusal to bargain with the newly formed union, as well as what the workers say are backhanded attempts to undermine union efforts. Baristas and shift supervisors united to raise grievances against the manager of the location and Starbucks corporate for difficult working conditions and low pay. In a letter posted on the front door of the store, workers addressed their manager: Direction only from the top is an unjust system we refuse to participate in. You are complicit in that system.
Minneapolis, Minnesota – Minneapolis has experienced a real estate boom since the economic crash of 2008 which was triggered when lenders gave out millions of discriminatory home loans with adjustable interest rates to mostly Black and brown families causing a massive nationwide mortgage default. In the past decade, the city added over 20,000 new units to its housing stock, with the overwhelming majority being rental units. With increased housing supply, Minneapolis added 60,000 new residents, according to the 2020 census. In recent years, the City of Minneapolis has attempted to codify “upzoning,” a practice where multi-family housing stock is increased citywide, with its 2040 plan that banned the new construction of single family homes throughout the city.
Minneapolis, Minnesota – After swelling to serve several dozen residents swept from other encampments, the lot on 29th Street and 14th Avenue continues to be controlled by unhoused residents despite the ongoing threat of eviction. On July 8, dozens of community members rallied at the encampment in the early morning hours and staved off what many thought was an eviction attempt by the city. Unicorn Riot heard from East Phillips resident and encampment supporter, Angela Richards, along with encampment resident, King, about the roles they were taking during the morning of July 8 and their thoughts on encampment evictions. Update: On July 20, 2022, Minneapolis Police evicted the encampment. Unicorn Riot was live speaking with some of the residents displaced from the eviction.
Minneapolis, Minnesota - On June 22 union leaders from AFSCME Local 2822, representing 1300 clerical workers at Hennepin County, crashed the State of the County Address demanding, “Stop retaliation against union activists now! End racism, sexism, ageism at work!” While managers patted each other on the back and reconnected after two years of hiding at home, union leaders confronted public officials with signs and informational flyers. Workers are demanding the bosses stop targeting union stewards and activists. Bosses began targeting three union leaders in January 2022. The first was Irish Gauna, a single African American mother of five who was fired in late January for allegedly violating the county’s COVID testing policy.
Minneapolis, Minnesota - 25 community members and organizers entered Mayor Jacob Frey’s office, June 6, to demand that the city stop stifling the East Phillips neighborhood’s efforts to build a community-owned sustainable urban farm on the site of an unused Roofing Depot plant in their neighborhood. The coalition was led by the Climate Justice Committee and the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI). The site, which has decades’ worth of toxic arsenic waste in its soil and structures, is slated to be demolished by the city to accommodate more public works facilities. This would throw all of these toxins into the air of a neighborhood that already has some of the worst air quality in Minnesota.
Minneapolis, Minnesota – On June 1, 2022, authorities unsuccessfully cleared an encampment of tents on an unused strip of land off Interstate 35. Eviction defenders thwarted the sweep by asking for documents, helping residents pack and move, and using their bodies and placing objects in the way of authorities. Despite aggression from the contractors hired for the eviction cleanup, no tents were taken. Yet, all residents have since moved. Arriving around 9 a.m., State Patrol officers and Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) workers arrived to the encampment next to the northbound 28th St. exit from I-35W, with plans to clear the tents. Residents of the camp started living there because the previous encampments they lived in were also swept by the city.
Minneapolis, Minnesota - On Tuesday May 24, over 500 mental health workers will walk off the jobs at three hospitals in the Minneapolis metro area. The striking groups include mental health coordinators and psych techs, along with other job classes that perform mental health work. All three of the groups have organized and joined SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and Iowa (SEIU HCMNIA) in the last eight months and are fighting for their first contract. They work at Allina Health’s Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Allina Health’s Unity Hospital in the Twin Cities suburb of Fridley, and MHealth Fairview Riverside Hospital in Minneapolis. While they work for three different hospitals, each with their own separate contract negotiations, the mental health workers are coordinating across the three locations and two health systems as they see the fight for a first contract with real improvements to working conditions and for safety in their jobs as a shared fight throughout the hospital industry.
Minneapolis, Minnesota - Two months after Minneapolis Police officer Mark Hanneman killed Amir Locke, 22, while executing a no-knock warrant, prosecutors say they won’t be charging Hanneman with a crime. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison released a 44-page joint report on April 6 explaining their decision in the case. Also released was a report by retired police officer John “Jack” Ryan. Locke was killed by Hanneman, who was part of a SWAT unit serving a pre-dawn no-knock warrant on February 2, 2022. Locke, a registered gun owner, was sleeping in a blanket on his cousin’s couch before being awakened by a SWAT unit at 6:48 a.m. after they entered the apartment with a key.
As Minneapolis teachers are nearing the end of the third week of their strike, a tentative agreement was reached early Friday morning between the union’s negotiating team and the Minneapolis public school district. Before the agreement was even released to the teachers, the district began flooding parents and educators with messages that classes are back on Monday. This is a lie. A tentative agreement does not end a strike. Only the workers on strike (in this case, the teachers and support staff) have the ability to do that — and they need time and space to read the tentative agreement, discuss it among their co-workers, community members and families, and then vote on it.
Temperatures are below freezing in Minneapolis with rain and snow falling as teachers enter their third week on strike. Negotiations are occurring at the Davis Center, where Minneapolis Public School District has refused to provide a living wage to Educational Support Staff or accept other demands. Outside, hundreds of teachers are dancing, chanting and picketing. “We have decided to organize an occupation of the Davis Center. We are going to have students here 24-7. We are going to be here all the time. And this is to increase awareness of the strike,” said one of the students. Inside, dozens of students announced that they are occupying the building. “As much media as we are getting, we haven’t been making big enough waves, or not enough waves to change MPS’ [Minneapolis Public Schools] mind.”
The Minneapolis Public School district says it has shared its "last, best and final offer" to striking education support professionals (ESPs). But the ESP and teacher chapters of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT 59) say the district can do better, and they'll continue to strike until that happens. Classes were canceled in Minneapolis on Monday, marking the 10th day nearly 30,000 students have missed school since the strike began on March 8. The main sticking point in contract negotiations continues to be pay for ESPs. The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT 59) has demanded starting pay for ESPs be increased to $35,000 annually (it's at about $24,000 right now). The district's offer on Sunday would increase starting wages of 85% of current ESPs to $23 per hour or more, "bringing most of our full-time ESPs close to $35,000 annually," the district says.
Labor is on fire in the Twin Cities. Educators in Minneapolis are wrapping up their second week on strike, and cafeteria workers are poised to join them. St. Paul educators came close to walking out as well; the unions fed off one another as they built their contract campaigns. “St. Paul has the experience,” said St. Paul special ed teacher Jeff Garcia. “Minneapolis has the energy. They are really fired up.” The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and the St. Paul Federation of Educators both announced February 18 that their members had voted to authorize strikes. MFT members walked out March 8. The strikers are in two bargaining units: 3,000 teachers and 1,000 education support professionals (ESPs), such as teacher’s aides.
Dozens of Minneapolis public school students organized a march and a sit-in to stand in solidarity with public school educators who entered their second week on strike. The students gathered at North High School and many held homemade signs, as well as some of the union signs speaking about the need for smaller class sizes, hiring more BIPOC teachers, and more. The action had been called the night before — a rally called at 5 p.m. for an action at 11:30 a.m. A student walkout in solidarity with teachers had been called and then canceled before the strike began. “We just had to do something for our teachers,” one student explained. After a crowd of a few dozen gathered, they took to the streets, walking on the road, crossing puddles of melted snow, and chanting into megaphones as a sound car followed.
On March 8, around 3,500 Minneapolis teachers and educational support professionals went out on strike, effectively shutting down a system of 35,000 students. The action, led by Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) Local 59, is the first walkout the city has seen in over 50 years. Educators are demanding caps to class sizes, higher wages and more mental health support for students. While the school district is claiming a budget shortfall, union advocates have pointed to the state’s record $9.3 billion surplus as a potential untapped resource. We sat down with Beth Dill, a 5th grade teacher at Whittier International Elementary School and an active union member, to talk about the strike, which is entering its second week.