Interview: Socialist Challenges Minneapolis Establishment
Socialist Alternative interviewed Ginger Jentzen, a leading activist in Minneapolis 15 Now and member of Socialist Alternative who is running for Minneapolis City Council in Ward 3. Visit her website at GingerJentzen.org to follow her campaign.
Why are you running this campaign?
I worked for years as a tipped restaurant worker and a home health care worker, and I joined Socialist Alternative in 2012. I’ve fought against foreclosures with Occupy Homes Minneapolis and against police violence with #BlackLivesMatter Minneapolis. I’ve spent two years fighting to win $15 an hour in Minneapolis, for a proposal supported by 68% of Minneapolis residents and confirmed viable by the City of Minneapolis’ own study.
We need political representatives who will fight unambiguously for working people and oppressed communities. We need political leaders who refuse corporate donations, who have proven themselves as uncompromising fighters, and who come out of our movements. Like Bernie Sanders and Kshama Sawant in Seattle, my campaign takes no money from big businesses so working people know I’m unambiguously in their corner.
What are the main goals of your campaign?
We need to change the priorities in Minneapolis’ City Hall. Minneapolis residents paid $825 million for the construction of US Bank football stadium and refurbishing the Target Center arena for a billionaire and a bank invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Imagine if we used that money to fix the broken for-profit housing system that’s pricing working-class residents and students out of Minneapolis. It’s enough money to build over 4,000 affordable, high-quality, city-owned housing units, providing thousands of union jobs and reducing rents.
The job description of our elected officials must be expanded. We need elected officials who are equally comfortable with the immediate tasks in City Hall as they are with the grassroots movement-building necessary to stop these attacks on Minneapolis residents. We need elected officials who are not afraid to stand up to big business and the Chamber of Commerce and who are not compromised by corporate campaign contributions.
Imagine what we can do with an unapologetic working-class fighter in City Council. Look at what Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative in Seattle achieved: victories against slumlords and the first major city to pass $15 an hour. We can do that in Minneapolis, too! With my campaign, I want to show that an alternative to Trump’s anti-worker agenda is possible.
What are the main issues in your campaign?
Ward 3, where I am running for City Council, is an area of northeast and downtown Minneapolis where students and working-class families are rapidly being priced out by gentrification. We need to invest in high-quality public housing, and to do this, we can’t rely on politicians who say they’re against gentrification but take money from the profit-driven big developers that are making this city unaffordable for low-income communities. I pledge to refuse any donations from business interests, and as a city council member, I’d only take the average wage of a worker in the ward, donating half of my $80,000 salary to social movements.
Minneapolis has a vibrant immigrant and Muslim community, which will be disproportionately impacted by Trump and the right-wing attacks. Tens of thousands of Minneapolis workers would be affected by anti-union laws and state level pre-emption of a $15 an hour minimum wage.
Our communities have been rocked by police killings like those of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile. Black Lives Matter has exposed the deep structural racism in the U.S. Let’s be clear that here in Minneapolis, at a minimum, we need an elected civilian review board with real teeth, with hiring and firing power, with actual powers over the police budget and priorities.
How does your campaign relate to the fight-back against Trump?
From Ward 3, to all of the Twin Cities, to the state level, our communities and public services are threatened by the anti-immigrant, anti-union billionaire agenda of President Trump. How can we translate the mass opposition we’ve seen in the last month into an ongoing, powerful movement to actually block Trump’s billionaire agenda? I think the temporary reversal of Trump’s Muslim ban by the #NoBanNoWall shows that Trump and the billionaire class can be defeated by powerful social movements.
We learned an important lesson from the efforts of 15 Now, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) to put $15 an hour on the ballot in Minneapolis. The majority of the city Democratic Party, with a few notable exceptions, bent to the pressure of big business. They did everything they could to keep $15 off the ballot. By failing to challenge corporate-politics-as-usual, the Democratic Party has opened the door to right-wing, anti-worker attacks. This is why I’m running independently of the two-party system.
How can people support your campaign?
I can promise you this: We will run the boldest grassroots campaign this year, based on donations from ordinary working people, knocking on every door, building the resistance movement that stops Trump’s agenda in its tracks. My campaign will take no corporate money and be built on our own independent power.
In the last election, over $100,000 from real-estate interests poured into Ward 3, with dozens of maxed-out donations from big developers, to elect a business-friendly candidate. Working people need our own candidates with campaigns run by us. You can help by volunteering or donating to my campaign today.
Now, more than ever, we need to get organized to defend our communities. That’s why I’m a member of Socialist Alternative. In Minneapolis and nationally, we are building a strong socialist backbone within the wider mass movements erupting against Trump and the billionaire class. Bernie Sanders proved that our call for a political revolution, for socialist policies, for a society that meets everyone’s needs, not just the profits of the few – that is a vision capable of inspiring the mass participation needed to win.