OUR Alliance: Louis King on the Power of Coalition Organizing

In 2019, the Alliance marks its 25th Anniversary — and a leadership transition! We know that our successes have come from coalition and community power so we’re lifting up the reflections and achievements of leaders from our network who have advanced our collective campaigns for regional equity. We want to hear from you! Share your reflections in this short survey to be recognized in our 25th Anniversary celebrations.

For Louis King, the power of the Alliance is simple. “Frankly, the name says it all: We come together and get things done.”

In 1996, just two years after the Alliance was established, King started building something big: a community-based vocational training and job placement program in North Minneapolis. But the success of Summit Academy OIC bumped up against the ceiling of structural and systemic racism: Even with the best education, his graduates weren’t being hired for the construction jobs that provide living wages.

So, in 2009, the President and CEO started building something else: a campaign. In partnership with the Alliance, he founded HIRE Minnesota, an initiative to end racial employment disparities and turn the state from worst to first in hiring people of color. Put simply, the Alliance helped him get that done by integrating expertise in organizing and community engagement.

“The Alliance’s most valuable tool was bringing everyone together using the principles of organizing,” he says. “They were trusted by people from many different communities and knew how to ensure voices were heard… People of color often have other people speaking for them, but through the Alliance we were able to forge a relationship to speak for ourselves and build power.”

Over the course of a decade, that power has leveraged thousands of jobs and tens of millions in wages for people of color in the region. For King, the biggest win is clear: the construction of the Vikings’ stadium in Minneapolis, where 36% of construction jobs went to people of color resulting in $39 million in estimated wages. “HIRE was there and already organized so we were be able to push for and be part of that victory,” he says.

Defining victory, though, is bigger than even a billion-dollar stadium. It’s about putting different players on the field who have the power to change the game itself. “With the placement of women and people of color in the construction industry, they’re going to emerge as the leaders of the industry, so we’ll have allies and internal champions to change policies from the inside out,” he says.

The Alliance has played a key role in boosting his inside game, as well. “I understand organizing better — the importance of taking the time to really build relationships, hear perspectives and come to a common voice with one message,” he says. “The Alliance taught me to do that up front.”

What have you learned and leveraged from the Alliance and its coalition work? Share your reflections in this short survey to be recognized in our 25th Anniversary celebrations! And don’t forget to sign up for our party on September 26!