On Tuesday, Target announced that they would lay off thousands of Minneapolis workers to boost shareholders profits. That same evening, in front of Target Headquarters in downtown Minneapolis, 15 Now organized an energetic picket and press conference to denounce the layoffs and demand the retail giant put working families above shareholder profits.
Protesters chanted “Expect More, Pay $15” as they held up a giant banner demanding a $15/hour minimum wage. Leaders from 15 Now, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, and OUR Walmart also demanded that if Target and other corporations refused to act to raise wages, Minneapolis City Council should step forward to raise the minimum wage like in Seattle, San Francisco, and other cities.
As news of the layoffs swiftly spread Tuesday afternoon, Target workers, passersby, and Target customers cheered and even stopped their shopping to join in the rally.
Target’s announcement of layoffs came just two weeks after Walmart announced it was raising workers wages to $10/hour next year. Most other retailers quickly followed suit, but not Target, whose CEO Brian Cornell could make up to $16 million in his first fiscal year on the job according to the Business Journal. Ex-Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel was forced out last May following a massive leak of customers’ private data, but received $61 million in compensation on his way out the door. Meanwhile, most Target employees struggle to make ends meet, and mass layoffs mean thousands of workers will pay the price for bad management by top executives.
Walmart announced a plan to raise wages for half a million of its workers after years of strike actions and protests. “I am am here today to call on Target to commit to being a leader in the retail industry,” said Cantare Davunt, a worker active with OUR Walmart fighting for better wages and working conditions. “And I’m asking them to commit to giving real wages to their employees – not more to CEOs.”
Speaking for 15 Now, Kip Hedges, a former Delta baggage handler for 26 years, highlighted two recent victories at the Minneapolis – St. Paul airport. Workers have won paid sick leave, and two rank-and-file workers were appointed to the Metropolitan Airport Commission by Governor Dayton. This is a step toward giving workers a voice at the airport, and indicates the MAC feels pressure from demonstrations like the one involving hundreds of workers and supporters on December 5th. Kip emphasized the victories at MSP – airport in the struggle for $15 and union rights will energize workers in Minneapolis.
“When one big player takes a bold step forward on wages, others fall in behind,” said Hedges, addressing Mayor Hodges’ recent position that the city of Minneapolis should not raise the minimum wage, unless the entire region or state does simultaneously.
“We don’t accept this race to the bottom,” said Ty Moore, 15 Now National Organizer. “What happened at Walmart demonstrates the power that workers have when we organize. We need a grassroots mobilization of working people in Minneapolis demanding $15, paid sick leave, fair scheduling. Minneapolis has a chance to lead on these issues, and raise the expectations of workers to organize for $15 across the Twin Cities. This is our regional strategy,” Moore said, in answer to Mayor Hodges objections to raising wages in just Minneapolis.
Check out this Workday Minnesota article covering the Target rally.