This is not the working people’s reopening

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Twin Cities Democratic Socialists of America Respond to the Walz/Flanagan Administration’s Business-First Reopening of the State

I just don’t think there’s anything I can do, that can be done. We’ve been sold out.

Minnesota Nurse

Last week, Governor Tim Walz announced that Minnesota will begin reopening on May 18th with a full reopening of the state on June 1st. This capitulation to the Republican party will result in several thousand unnecessary deaths in the interest of padding the bottom line of businesses. This is not a working people’s reopening. It is a decision to sacrifice human lives for the sake of profit–especially the lives of frontline workers. Is this how we treat these “essential workers” who have been called heroes? By sending them to die in order to appease Republicans?

Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan’s decision to end the stay-at-home order flagrantly violates the instructions of public health experts and basic human rights that all Minnesotans deserve.  Although the CDC advises states to maintain stay-at-home orders until they see a downward trajectory of cases for 14 days, Minnesota COVID-19 cases are expected to skyrocket in coming weeks. Reopening now will leave frontline workers woefully under-equipped and result in thousands of unnecessary deaths. By ignoring CDC recommendations, Walz and Flanagan are following the lead of the Trump administration in putting profits before people. We simply do not buy the Trump administration argument that a closed economy “kills people” at a rate even remotely comparable to COVID-19. That is right-wing propaganda. It is the decades-long attack on our social safety net that has left people so financially and medically vulnerable. And it is a strong social safety net that we need in this moment to weather this epidemic. We are being given a false choice

During this pandemic, the disparities perpetuated by capitalism have been exacerbated even further. People experiencing homelessness, the poor, and black, brown, indigenous and immigrant communities have not only been left underserved and under-resourced, but have been dying from COVID-19 at significantly higher rates than other groups. The Walz/Flanagan administration is sanctioning an economic reopening that ignores the inequities and harm that this pandemic lays bare. Perhaps it is because Governor Walz, like the Trump administration, deems these groups expendable, just like the frontline workers they are dooming to death.

The Walz/Flanagan administration has claimed that MN hospitals have sufficient resources to handle this pandemic. This is untrue. We know from healthcare workers that they lack necessary PPE and face retaliation and even termination for speaking out. Other essential workers are protesting unsafe working conditions and fighting to maintain what little hazard pay they have. 

Even before this pandemic, 46% of renters in Minnesota were spending more than a third of their income on rent. Now, without the necessary support from our state leaders, renters experiencing disproportionate loss of income are not able to pay rent, meet the cost of late fees, and face impending mass evictions that will leave them homeless. 

`Our unsheltered population has exploded to 86 encampments in Minneapolis alone, while decision-makers discuss how fast they can clear them. Homeless people have once again been deemed expendable, left uncertain if they will ever have safe emergency shelter and whether they will be labeled as undeserving of life-saving COVID-19 testing by the Walz/Flanagan administration.

All intersections of working and poor people have been offered a false choice by the Walz/Flanagan administration – either get crushed financially under a closed economy, or work in life-threatening conditions under an open economy. Their administration is using working and poor people’s economic precarity as a political tool to force an unsafe reopening of the economy. We will not be made the martyrs of this “economic reopening”. This is not the working people’s reopening. And this never was a working people’s stay-at-home order, either.

A more just stay-at-home order and reopening is possible. As Twin Cities DSA, our minimum demands of the Walz/Flanagan administration are:

  • Extend the stay-at-home order until we have a minimum of 14 consecutive days with a decreasing number of cases. Be prepared to reclose the state in the event of an increase in the number of cases.
  • Guarantee free, accessible and widespread testing and PPE to everyone who needs it
  • Continue the eviction moratorium, ban all evictions for non-payment of rent, and cancel outstanding rent, mortgage, rent for public housing residents, and debt payments. Stop the sale and lease of public housing buildings and homes to private investors, banks, and developers. 
  • Halt the permitting, construction, and expansion of all polluting industries that disproportionately impact at-risk communities, including the Line 3 pipeline.
  • Use executive authority to open up vacant hotels and other livable unoccupied properties to everyone in need
  • Guaranteed protection for those experiencing domestic violence and free childcare.
  • Listen to frontline workers and democratize decision-making around workplace safety. Procedures and standards should be set by the workers and carried out by employers and the state. 
  • Public control of utilities and health care to guarantee that decisions are made in the public interest and not in the interest of wealthy investors.

While we expect the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to meet these reasonable demands, we know that under capitalism we cannot rely on corporations or elected officials to save us. We must stand in solidarity with each other to build a better world. Here are ways that every Minnesotan can, today, step up to make sure people do not die for the profits of the few:

Our health and safety is more important than the bosses’ bottom line. It is time for all Minnesotans to stand together in solidarity. Together we are unstoppable.

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