By Eileen Gavin
MNA Political Organizer
There are some major races for political office this year in St. Paul and Minneapolis. St. Paul will be electing a new Mayor as Chris Coleman has thrown his name in the ring in the race for Minnesota’s next Governor. Also, Minneapolis residents will be voting for their Mayor and City Council. MNA has a long history of involvement in races at the state level, including state legislative races both in the House and Senate, Governor, and Attorney General. MNA has not been very involved in electoral work at the city level—until now. The MNA Board of Directors has made a strategic decision to participate in local elections, a decision welcomed and applauded by almost all of the candidates we interviewed last week. With the current state of affairs and major gridlock at the federal and even state level, more and more attention will be focused locally with our city governments becoming our new battleground for change. MNA recently supported and worked on two major issues at the local level. We participated in steering committees with other stakeholders, met with coalition partners, lobbied city officials and testified on behalf of the of Earned Safe and Sick Time (ESST) ordinances in Minneapolis and St. Paul and the 15 Now campaign.
In order to be considered for MNA endorsement, we ask candidates to complete a questionnaire outlining their experience, background, stance on the issues, and top priorities if elected. Secondly, we ask candidates to come in for an interview, a “screening” with MNA members. We ask the candidates specific questions that they as city officials would have jurisdiction over such as, “if public employees went on strike would you support hiring replacement workers?” We also ask more general questions of support.
“If MNA nurses are struggling to reach an agreement with a private employer in your city, what do you feel is the role of a city council member?”
“Would you attend an action? Reach out to ask the employer to bargain in good faith? Take other action?”
And we ask for their stance on issues at the state and even federal level, such as Medicare for all. We want to know if they stand with MNA on principle and if they have ideas of how local officials should address these issues.
We have had interesting conversations with candidates on these topics and heard some great ideas from adding those issues to the city’s legislative agenda, lobby state lawmakers, use the bully pulpit to influence other decision makers, to drafting city ordinances to address the problem. MNA is getting involved locally because there are current issues and ordinances we are working on, but we want to build meaningful relationships with city officials to come up with creative solutions toward our long-term goals of curing short staffing and comprehensive healthcare reform.
MNA members came together last week and screened nearly 40 candidates running for St. Paul mayor, Minneapolis mayor and Minneapolis city council. We met a wide variety of candidates from incumbents who have served for 20 years to young, upcoming activists, an environmental lawyer, a nurse, community organizers, LGBTQ advocate, and a banker.
Nurses had the opportunity to ask tough questions of each candidate such as, what are the values that motivate you? On what issues will you never compromise? On what issues will you compromise? How do you plan on winning? After hours of interviews and deliberations, MNA member made endorsement recommendations that will be sent to the MNA Board of Directors for final approval. These endorsements will be made public next week, and will be posted here https://mnnurses.org/issues-advocacy/elections/endorsements/.
We would like to thank all the MNA members who participated in last weeks’ candidate screenings. It was a lot of work that was crammed into a few days and tough decisions were made. Politics aren’t always easy. But if we don’t talk to elected officials about what matters to us, and push to advance our issues at each level of government, then who will?
To get more involved in MNA’s political program, at any level, please contact one of MNA’s political organizers for more information.
- Eileen Gavin Eileen.Gavin@mnnurses.org
- Katie Gjertson Katie.Gjertson@mnnurses.org
- Cameron Fure Cameron.Fure@mnnurses.org