Our historic gathering in western Minnesota this summer will feature some of the most knowledgeable people in the entire region on our demographic and economic disparities, and how to fix them. We’ve recently confirmed two new outstanding speakers: Kevin Jensvold, Chairman of the Upper Sioux Community, who will deliver our opening welcome on June 27, and Diana Anderson, President of the Southwest Initiative Foundation, who will open our proceedings on June 28. Other speakers previously announced are: Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey; State Demographer Susan Brower; Cornelia Flora Butler, co-creator of the Community Capitals Framework and a highly respected expert in rural community development; Craig Helmstetter, managing director of the American Public Media Research Lab, and Tane Danger, (Growth & Justice board member) and his Theater of Public Policy troupe. Please register now – space is filling up -- for this signature event of 2018, a statewide convening June 27-29 in the historic and scenic western Minnesota town of Granite Falls. Participants in this event will help us create a unifying “One Minnesota Equity Blueprint,’’ a new social contract that helps heal our divisions: the rural-metro divide, racial injustice, overall economic inequality and environmental degradation. Registration options include participating as an official delegate in the six-month blueprint development, or as a general participant in the Granite Falls kick-off gathering. More information on the gathering, entitled “Thriving by Design, Rural & Urban Together,” is available on our website. Our partner in this event is OneMN.org, an organization focused statewide on building our “ethnic capital” and working toward racial equity in business and economic development. Their motto -- “Building Shared Sustainable Prosperity’’ -- resonates strongly with our own mission statement. Please spread the word, even if you cannot attend.
Employers who hire refugees see less turnover and choose from a wider pool of employees. That’s the finding from a new study by the Fiscal Policy Institute, based on interviews with employers, refugees and resettlement agency officials.. As a Minnesota Budget Project blogpost points out, the findings from the report are especially relevant to states like Minnesota that have both a history of welcoming refugees and a tightening labor shortage. In the Fiscal Policy Institute study, nearly three-fourths of firms hiring refugees saw lower turnover rates and companies also saw other workplace improvements that benefited all employees. As the furor continues over harsh sanctions against refugees and the seizure of their children at our borders, it’s important to note that Minnesota ranks first in the nation for refugees per capita, and numerous studies have shown that refugees, and immigrants in general, are a net long-term benefit to our economy and our society. Among the more thorough analyses of costs and benefits are a 2017 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research and an internal 2017 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study that President Trump rejected.
A few months before he was assassinated in 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King launched an extraordinary and comprehensive “Poor People’s Campaign’’ that grew out of and greatly expanded the civil rights movement for African-Americans. Allied with religious, labor and social justice groups, King began pulling together a multi-racial “fusion’’ movement, still focused on racism, but also on poverty and economic inequality affecting white Americans, environmental degradation, and militarism and war. Fifty years later, that effort is being revived in Minnesota and more than 30 other states, with strong participation from poor people and low-income workers themselves, religious leaders, and dozens of churches and non-profit social justice groups. The six- week campaign has involved civil disobedience and arrests and weekly rallies at the state capitol, focusing on liveable wages, climate action and persecution of immigrants. This Star Tribune commentary by religious leaders of the campaign provides an eloquent and inspiring overview of the campaign. Growth & Justice has worked closely with many of the individuals and organizations leading this campaign and its principles are sound. We tend to emphasize the benefits to business and the economy from public policy that advances social justice, but these moral imperatives are equally important.
“Every major religious tradition places challenging oppression and criticizing systems of injustice at the center of its moral considerations. Furthermore, the Preamble to our U.S. Constitution articulates foundational goals of establishing justice and promoting the general welfare for “We the People,” no exceptions. Our proudest moments in our nation’s history resulted from our better angels trying to live up to these principles and to build a more equitable economy and society.’’—Star Tribune commentary by three Minnesota faith leaders who are also chairs of the Minnesota Poor People’s Campaign.