State Senator's View: With so many challenges, now is the time to invest in one another

From the column: "This is our moment to make a generational shift, including for clean-energy infrastructure, housing, education, health care, and transportation."

State Sen. Jen McEwen of Duluth
State Sen. Jen McEwen, of Duluth, center, talks with her husband, Rich Updegrove, left, while their daughter, Aurora McEwen-Updegrove looks on at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
Dan Williamson / Duluth News Tribune
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As we can all recognize, and for a variety of reasons, the times we find ourselves in are momentous. Climate change is upon us, and the economic injustices of our society are more exacerbated and entrenched than ever. Widespread effects of long-standing institutionalized racism plague our community and state. We live in the wealthiest country in the world, but most of us don’t experience that bounty. We live paycheck to paycheck, yet we also experience exorbitantly high prices on everything from rent to higher education to child care to health care to property taxes. The costs of our public goods and basic needs keep rising, all as record profits flow for the benefit of the economic elite.

The significance of our challenges is indeed great, but so, too, is our opportunity now for change. We can, and we must, work now to set the foundations for a truly great society. Minnesotans are looking ahead, holding on to the hope that there can be better, more prosperous days to come and electing leaders who are ready to implement that vision.

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Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

Over this past year, the crescendo of workers in Minnesota and around the nation calling for change and accountability from those in power has begun to coalesce, with calls for laws to protect us in our workplaces and to be treated with the basic dignities every person deserves. As the newly appointed chair of the Minnesota Senate Labor Committee, it will be my mission to advocate for working people each and every day.

The ingredients for a great society include some long-overdue basics, like paid family and medical leave, guaranteed paid sick leave, a minimum wage indexed to inflation, and unemployment benefits available to all workers, including hourly school workers. Additionally, the safety of workers and our communities should come first, and we can start by passing legislation like the Refinery Safety Act, the Safe Workplaces for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers Act, the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, and much more.

Every person should have the right to health care, including the full spectrum of comprehensive, medically accurate reproductive health care, without interference from government, an employer, or insurance companies. While we continue to build up support and the coalition across the state to adopt the Minnesota Health Plan, with attacks on our reproductive freedom occurring at every level across the country, Minnesota stands to be a beacon of hope and refuge in reproductive health care.


The Legislature’s new Minnesota Reproductive Freedom Caucus, which my colleagues and I founded last session, can now move forward with the legislation needed to codify and strengthen our reproductive freedoms. It is a privilege to work alongside this growing coalition to ensure that within our state borders these basic human rights will be meaningfully honored, and patients and their caregivers will be protected from authoritarian threats and actions.

In Minnesota, our waters are foundational to our identities, cultures, traditions, health, and livelihoods. As the people who make our lives in Northeastern Minnesota, we must remain firmly committed to standing strong in protection of all our waters — Lake Superior, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the Mississippi River watershed, and all waters across our region. This is a sacred trust, and we must hold our government institutions and elected officials accountable to serving us, the people, and our interests over those of profiteering industry bosses and financiers.

This is our moment to make a generational shift, including for clean-energy infrastructure, housing, education, health care, and transportation. Foundational investments like these set the table for better days ahead, return the most economic support to our communities, and will advance the future we all want to see for Minnesota — all while creating high-wage union jobs across our economy. Now is the time to invest in one another, to build a sustainable, prosperous, and just future.

It is so inspiring to see the organizing and work for positive change in our community as Duluthians lead the way to a brighter future. Let’s dream big about what is possible, about the kind of community we want to have and to be, and let’s work to make those dreams into reality now, in care for one another, and for the generations to come.

Jen McEwen will represent Minnesota Senate District 8, which includes Duluth. She wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page.

Jen McEwen.jpg
Sen. Jen McEwen of Duluth

The News Tribune Opinion page again this year asked community leaders and area experts to gaze into a crystal ball and share what 2023 might bring. This column is part of that series.
Sunday, Dec. 25 — Northland economy
Monday, Dec. 26 — Business
Tuesday, Dec. 27 — Tourism
Wednesday, Dec. 28 — City of Duluth
Thursday, Dec. 29 — St. Louis County
Friday, Dec. 30 — Duluth public schools
Saturday, Dec. 31 — Minnesota Legislature
Sunday, Jan. 1 — Downtown Duluth
Monday, Jan. 2 — Public safety
Tuesday, Jan. 3 — D.C.

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