By Barbara Bach
Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), an advocacy organization based in North Minneapolis, has been working on behalf of people struggling in Camden and throughout the Twin Cities since 2009. Based at 1101 West Broadway, Suite 100, NOC leads campaigns to improve conditions of under-resourced communities and communities of color. Its goals include economic and racial justice, workers’ rights, better public transit, and often contentious issues such as expanded voting rights, and police accountability.
NOC (pronounced “knock”) aligned recently with 10 other nonprofit organizations, achieving a victory for workers rights. As a result of its door-to-door, social media and information campaigns, the Minneapolis City Council is now considering ordinances to guarantee workers access to earned sick time and fair work schedules. Often minimum wage workers receive less than an hour’s notice to report to work. Accessing sick leave to care for family members is frequently denied. NOC is working to change that, and more.
Following fast-food workers victory in New York for a $15 per hour wage, NOC is riding the tide of voices for a livable wage for Minneapolis, also being addressed by the Minneapolis City Council. NOC’s petition to improve working conditions for underpaid workers and obtain a living wage first appeared in early August at mplsworks.org.
Although the State of Minnesota announced the most job vacancies since 2001, following national trends, the jobs are at the lower end of the earning spectrum. Minimum wage is now $9, and as pointed out in a recent Star Tribune article, most new hires do not earn adequate income to support a family of three. Two-thirds of the population of Minnesota live in the metro area, earning, on average, $12.99 an hour, which, per the state’s cost of living calculator, cannot support a family of four with two working parents.
To gather information about the experiences of low-end Northside workers, NOC conducted a survey of North Minneapolis. Results of the survey were presented during a march on City Hall this past summer to advocate for workers rights. Speakers shared stories of coming to work sick because their employers did not offer paid sick leave and of unpredictable work schedules – often not provided until the day or ever hours before a shift, contributing to financial problems.
On the City Council’s progress on the family agenda, spokesperson Ron Harris said, “The Minneapolis City Council took an affirmative step forward on September 11 with their notice of intent. With that notice of intent, we expect real policy proposals to come forward that adequately address the issues that low wage workers face daily, particularly unfair schedules and no access to earned sick time. The next steps for the council will be to propose a new chapter in the ordinance that every worker in the city, temp, seasonal, part time and full time gains access to earned sick and safe time to take care of themselves or their loved ones, and a more fair, predictable, and healthy schedule.
The steps that the City Council is taking is a direct result of months of workers organizing, sharing their stories, standing up for their rights, and calling for change. Workers who want to get involved with the campaign can email Mike Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org”
NOC Executive Director Anthony Newby leads the small nonprofit group that is effectively influencing public policy and improving lives. (In the past he worked with current Mayor Hodges, whose issued statements also support living wages and workers rights.) The organization is grassroots, member-led effort that welcomes volunteers. It has a paid staff of more than half a dozen employees. According to its bylaws, NOC’s purpose is to promote social welfare, including but not limited to: putting into action the good will of those who live and work in the State of Minnesota; to assist public and private organizations and agencies which seek to promote social and economic justice and the welfare of the State of Minnesota and its people; and to encourage, promote and implement social justice projects which will benefit the members of NOC and the people of MN.
As shared in social media, NOC is on the cusp of changing working conditions of Minneapolis workers. It is also profoundly affecting family life and the ability to function healthily within society. Other issues NOC has advanced include awareness of climate change and the need for immediate action. Last summer NOC participated in the largest march on climate change in history in New York City.
This summer the nonprofit incurred a devastating blow when an arson-initiated fire burned its headquarters building at 1101 West Broadway. Fundraising began immediately to rebuild. NOC remains hopeful and active. “Stay tuned,” says Harris, “for the next big event.”