Tag Archives: wages


Deran Cadotte’s Story of Worker Victory!

Six years ago, Deran Cadotte was weighing his options for a degree in urban policy. He walked into The Murphy Institute and met with June Cumberbatch, advisor to the Urban Studies BA Program and his decision was made. “I immediately felt at home,” Deran reports.

In the fall of 2014, while working full-time, Deran began his academic and professional journey towards the next stage of his career in the non-profit world. As a part of his coursework, Deran happened upon a Labor Studies course. Little did he know that a class outside of his field of study would come in handy.

Deran graduated in Spring 2018 and moved back to his native Minnesota, where he began work at St. Stephen’s Human Services, a not-for-profit that works to end homelessness and expand housing stability in the city of Minneapolis. On his first day on the job, Deran learned of the efforts at St. Stephen’s to unionize. The last attempt had been two years previous, and many of the workers who were involved were subsequently terminated. But while history had not shone favorably on organizing at St. Stephen’s, Deran and his co-workers did not allow that to deter them.

Their goals included parity for shelter workers and wage increases on par with other agencies in the field. They called for a cultural shift, too – including organizational transparency, a workers’ safety committee, and as Deran aptly describes, “for the voices of those with boots on the ground to have the same credence as executive voices.” With the bargaining unit comprising 80% of the organization, workers at St. Stephen’s voted by a 90% majority to join the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

After one unfair labor practice and 49 weeks of bargaining, Deran and his co-workers ratified their first contract. Through the solidarity of members across titles, they won 4% wage increases across the board, and another 5% for seniority. In order to address the wage disparity faced by shelter workers, caseworkers halted their own wage increases. The union even won their most coveted demand – “just cause.” Allowing for job security, just cause places the burden of proof on the employer and formally eliminates at-will employment.

Two days after the contract was ratified, Deran received a promotion and was elevated out of the bargaining unit. Deran and his co-workers continue to strive towards a more equitable and democratically-run workplace – conversations that have taken on a new gravity given the darkness that fell over Minneapolis following the murder of George Floyd.

When asked what advice Deran would give to those seeking to organize their workplaces, he responded, “The hallmark answer would be ‘if it feels right in your heart, you’ll probably win.’ You have to get the support of people who are not just in the same rank as you – even if they can’t be a part of the bargaining unit, just knowing they have your back will help move you forward. Persist! Be curious and prepared to learn.”

He added a hint to combat self-doubt: “You know it. You know you know it. Just go do it!”

For a lift in spirits, watch this video of Deran Cadotte and AFSCME Local 999’s journey towards unionization.

A Debate on Bargaining for the Common Good

In this piece from Organizing Work, Marianne Garneau debates with labor organizer and journalist Chris Brooks and veteran union negotiator Joe Burns about Bargaining for the Common Good and its use as a model for connecting workplace fights with broader social demands.

Read part one and part two here.


Old Wine in New Bottles: Gender and the Gig Economy

Ruth Milkman has published “Old wine in new bottles: gender and the gig economy” about her study (along with Luke Elliott-Negri, Kathleen Griesbach, and Adam Reich) of the platform-based food economy, which had an explosion in demand when COVID-19 hit. She found that the majority of the workers were white women, and describes the “class-gender nexus” of this element of the gig economy.

Read about it in WorkinProgress.


Photo Credit: Leo Chen via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

The End of Tipping?

The food & labor worlds have been abuzz with the news that acclaimed New York restauranteur Danny Meyer has eliminated tipping in his restaurants in favor of higher hourly wages for workers.

This comes on the heels of a similar trend in other cities: in Seattle, for instance, a rising minimum wage has led many restauranteurs to raise prices. Some restauranteurs have compensated by eliminating tipping from their restaurants; in other cases, patrons are choosing not to tip, sensing, begrudgingly or not, that their servers are finally being well-compensated.

A catastrophic disruption to the food service industry as we know it? Hardly. Labor advocates and consumers alike have been praising the trend — with some even arguing that it doesn’t go far enough. Continue reading The End of Tipping?

Observations on Cuba

By Marisa Butler

In March, I traveled to Cuba with my family. We were able to go legally on a People to People license issued by the US government. Limited, legal travel is one of the ways the Obama administration has been easing restrictions between the two nations. As a requirement of our visa, we were mandated to adhere to a strict schedule of tours and programs that served as a cultural exchange, rather than a traditional vacation.

I want to give context to our trip and acknowledge my role as an outsider who was traveling within the bounds of a US-granted license and a tour run by the Cuban government. Despite these details, I learned an incredible amount that I feel has been mostly absent throughout my educational career in the United States. It was an incredible opportunity to view this experience through the lens of the Urban Studies program. Continue reading Observations on Cuba