By Kathy Malecki, RN
Government Affairs Commissioner
In an effort of capturing and sustaining the energy and engagement achieved during the 2018 election cycle, the 22 groups compromising Our Minnesota Future (OMF) met to strategize on next steps. How do we understand people-centered governance, also known as co-governance? If we allow ourselves to “dream big,” what do we envision? Do we really need technocrats, think-tanks, and corporations to write policy and rules that affect us without really having all of us–the stakeholders–in the discussion?
If we believe, as OMF does, that “the people impacted by a problem should make the decisions, not those who profit from it,” we will need to dream big, to prepare ourselves with decision-making skills and tools, and to build for the long-term sustainability of this work which will affect generations to come. Imagine if we adopted the concept of seven generations used by First Nations People.
Various member organizations brought examples of their work to spur us into imagining widely:
- SEIU Homecare workers spoke of bringing some of their clients to their collective bargaining negotiations to provide mutual-need context when discussing specific bargaining requests for their PCA’s with management. This November, they also helped elect a disabled client/member to a city council seat. Now they are involved in developing a statewide homecare training program. Their approach to these discussions is, “Nothing about us without us.”
- The Minnesota Tenants Union shared how they worked together to buy five apartment buildings and make rent affordable via co-governance within their organization, eliminating profit motive.
- CTUL (Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha which is the Laborers’ Union) spoke of their organizing efforts to create space where janitorial workers can meet to discuss their greivances and forming a union. They also recently won a 33% pay increase and a Responsible Contractors Policy from the large retail corporations that were employing their members. CTUL then turned their energy toward Earned Safe and Sick Time passage at the city level. Now they are planning a campaign to end wage-theft.
Co-governance is not a new idea. In 1918, the Nonpartisan League (NPL) of North Dakota used grassroots organizing to elect a slate of candidates that took control of the governorship and state legislature. The league caucused together to achieve an agenda that brought power back to the people of North Dakota by establishing a State Bank and state-run enterprises like grain elevators and mills. Over time, however, farmers and small businesses in North Dakota and across the country have lost hard-fought protections, and co-ops have lost their economic power due to privatization. Perhaps it is time to bring back co-governance for the mutual benefit of all the people. Democracy demands it. It is our duty to make a commitment and BE the government of, by, and for the people.
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