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On eve of DFL primary, supporters highlight Ilhan Omar’s work as a champion for public education and labor movement

August 8, 2022

Speakers at the news conference to support Ilhan Omar included (left to right): Nelson Inz, current Minneapolis school board member; Robert Lilligren, former Minneapolis city council member; Jill Davis, former Minneapolis school board member and board chair; Loretta VanPelt, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers member; Ma-Riah Roberson Moody, MFT member; Elizabeth Glidden, former Minneapolis school board member.

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

MINNEAPOLIS — Supporters of AFL-CIO endorsed Ilhan Omar spoke at a news conference at the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers union hall today to encourage voters to support her re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives.

“If you support Labor, if you support public education, you need to make sure you’re voting for Ilhan,” said MFT member Ma-Riah Roberson-Moody, education support professional at Roosevelt High School.

Omar won the DFL Party endorsement but she faces four opponents tomorrow in the Tuesday, August 9 Primary Election as she seeks a third term to represent Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, which includes Minneapolis and several suburbs.

Speakers at the news conference at the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers included two former Minneapolis city council members, a former Minneapolis school board chair, and MFT members. They contrasted Omar’s record with the record of her main opponent, Don Samuels, who is a former Minneapolis city council member and former Minneapolis school board member.

“She’s showed up for us, she’s showed up for the labor movement, she’s showed up for public education in so many ways,” Roberson-Moody said.

Omar spoke at MFT rallies during the teacher strike earlier this year and she has consistently joined local workers from many different unions at marches, picket lines and rallies during her time in Congress — and earlier as a state legislator.

As the pandemic spread and prompted school closings, in March 2020 Omar  introduced and helped to pass the MEALS Act, a bill in Congress to allow schools to continue providing free or reduced-cost meals to students. “That was really important,” Roberson-Moody said, noting that school-provided breakfasts and lunches are essential to many young students.

Passing the MEALS act is just one example of Omar’s impact in Congress, said former Minneapolis city council member Elizabeth Glidden, who spoke at the news conference and credited Omar as a legislator “who gets results from a politically-divided government.”

Glidden called Omar “a progressive change-maker” and a “political leader who delivers results.”

By contrast, said Glidden, when she served with Samuels on the Minneapolis city council, “he was not known as a policy innovator.”

Robert Lilligren, another former Minneapolis city council member who served with Samuels, also spoke at the news conference and said Samuels as an elected official would support “the status quo.”

“I have been a huge supporter of Congresswoman Omar,” Lilligren said. “I see her everywhere in the community. I also see the work she’s done and what she’s delivered for the district.” In March of this year alone, he noted, Omar helped to win “over $17 million for projects in our district.”

“I support Ilhan Omar because she never forgets why she’s in Congress,” said former Minneapolis school board chair Jill Davis, another speaker at the news conference. “She knows she’s there for her constituents and all average folks across the United States.”

Davis, who served on the school board when Samuels also was a school board member, said, “Don Samuels is not a dependable and visible ally of public education.” She recalled Samuels’ infamous 2007 statement in a magazine article when he said “burn North High School down!”

“I support Ilhan Omar because she is a trusted ally of public education,” Davis said, noting that Omar graduated from Edison High School in Minneapolis and that Omar’s children attend the Minneapolis Public Schools. “Congresswoman Omar will never waver in her commitment to public education,” Davis said.

Current Minneapolis school board member Nelson Inz, who spoke at the news conference, said Omar follows in the tradition of Minnesota progressives Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Paul Wellstone. “She’s there for regular folks,” he said.

By contrast, Inz said, “Don Samuels’ policies serve the interests of the elites… not the interests of everyday people.”

According to the national AFL-CIO’s website, Omar earned a 95 percent voting record on working families issues for 2021, the last year reported. The AFL-CIO gave Omar a lifetime voting score of 88 percent.

Loretta VanPelt

MFT member Loretta VanPelt: “We should vote tomorrow to send Ilhan Omar back to Congress… We need someone who’s a champion for the working class and for folks here in Congressional District 5.”

“She’s one of the few who walk the walk and talk the talk,” said Loretta VanPelt, another MFT member who spoke at the news conference. “She was a big supporter of us during our strike,” noted VanPelt, a special education teacher at Whittier school.

Concerning Samuels, VanPelt said, “as a graduate of North High, I was upset when he said that North High should burn to the ground. That is a school that is dear to my heart and dear to the hearts of many in the community. For him to say that  was hurtful. It shows he does not care for the students, or teachers, or any of the people who make Minneapolis Public Schools run.”

“We should vote tomorrow to send Ilhan Omar back to Congress,” VanPelt said. “That’s where we need her. We need someone who’s a champion for the working class and for folks here in Congressional District 5.”

The Minnesota AFL-CIO endorsed Ilhan Omar for reelection July 20 (too late to be included in the July 23 issue of the Minneapolis Labor Review).

Other labor union endorsements for Ilhan Omar include: AFSCME Council 5, American Federation of Teachers, Education Minnesota, National Education Association, National Nurses United, SEIU Minnesota State Council, Teamsters Local 120, UNITE HERE Local 17.

Prior to winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, Omar served one term in the Minnesota House of Representatives, where she earned a 100 percent voting score from the Minnesota AFL-CIO.

Omar is a former member of AFSCME Local 3800.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Ilhan Omar serves on the Education and Labor Committee and is a member of the Subcommitee on Higher Education and Workforce Development and the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.

For Minnesota voting information, or to learn your election day polling place, visit: mnvotes.org.

Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
List of Endorsements for the 2022 Election
(Updated July 28, 2022)

Click here to view list of endorsements

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