Summer Centered: Grace Brosnan ’20 Campaigns for Workers’ Rights
The anthropology major is engaging in direct action and local activism to fight for a living wage for all workers in the Twin Cities.
On June 30, 2017, cheers rang out through City Hall in Minneapolis, Minn., as supporters gathered to celebrate the passage of a plan to introduce a $15 minimum wage in the city.
It was a hard-fought victory, won in no small part through the effort and perseverance of el Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha, the Center of Workers United in Struggle (CTUL), an organization that works with low-wage workers to fight larger systems of oppression together.
Grace Brosnan ’20 recalls marching through downtown Minneapolis in the summer of 2015 as part of the “Fight for $15” campaign in an organizing event led by CTUL. With their person-oriented focus and proven drive to succeed, Brosnan knew she had found a place where she could carry out her passion for change as a summer intern a year later.
"I was really drawn to their worker focus,” Brosnan said. “The board of directors is almost entirely low-wage workers of color, meaning that they guide the organization’s mission, goals, and work. I was excited to know that I’d be doing work to disrupt capitalism under the leadership of those most affected by it.”
Sponsored by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, the anthropology major spends her days at CTUL in Minneapolis helping with a variety of tasks that support the organization’s goals and campaigns, including the Fast Food Campaign and the Retail Cleaning Campaign to increase wages in their respective industries.
"Some days, I am making copies of radical organizing books for my supervisor, some days I’m making calls to workers to get them to turn up to worker meetings; some days I’m organizing protest signs and banners so that they’re easily available for the next protest, strike, or march; other days I’m going out with an organizer to a McDonalds [or other fast food establishments] to talk with workers on the job,” she said. “We ask them ‘What would you do with a raise to $15 an hour?’ The answers are almost always emotional. They would save money, they would buy a car, they would quit their second job and spend more time with their children. No day is typical, and that’s the nature of the work. Things are always changing, and we have to constantly adapt.”
In addition to the goals of her work, Brosnan is inspired by the people she’s working alongside and the friendships she’s made.
"It’s been really humbling to see the amount of time and effort the people at CTUL put into their work,” she said. “The atmosphere at the office is intense yet loving. I knew that the work would be hard, but I didn’t expect it to be so emotionally intense. I’m building relationships with the organizers, and you have to because without the close friendships of the workers here, you wouldn’t survive.”
At CTUL, Brosnan hopes to grow as an organizer—strengthening her skills, building her networks—so that she is empowered to continue fighting for justice beyond this summer internship.
"I absolutely plan on doing work like this in the future,” Brosnan added. “Working with others to fight oppression is a passion of mine.”
"Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.