Minnesota Public Interest Research Group

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Established 1971
Exec. Dir. Ryan Kennedy
Chair Alex Vagac
Vice Chair Andy Timm
Treasurer Sam Daniewicz
Secretary Jenny Hunken
Headquarters Minneapolis, MN, USA
Homepage www.mpirg.org

The Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (also known as MPIRG) describes itself as "a grassroots, non-partisan, nonprofit, student-directed organization that empowers and trains students and engages the community to take collective action in the public interest throughout the state of Minnesota." [1]

History[edit]

MPIRG was incorporated on February 17, 1971. Students at the University of Minnesota collected 25,200 signatures that year to start the first MPIRG chapter in Minnesota and start the first PIRG in the nation. College students collected more than 50,000 signatures in all to start chapters at college campuses across the state. The motivating idea was for students to join together in collective action to advocate in the public interest, and to use the activity fees they collected from each school to support a staff of professionals that could train them to become powerful advocates in the public policy arena. MPIRG's unique strategy to mobilize students has led to a long list of accomplishments, including protecting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota from environmental damage and promoting stricter ethical standards for lobbyists. [2]

In recent years, the financing structure of the organization has come under fire for its reliance on contracts with various post-secondary institutions to receive disproportionately large pools of funding from the student body on an "opt-out" basis. A movement at Macalester College was launched to counter what was seen by some students as unfair, in that funding to MPIRG is taken from each student at the college unless the student has explicitly specified otherwise. Given the political nature of the organization, this has led to contentious debate over the ethics of such a scheme. The movement was successful in ending the deal between MPIRG and Macalester, which has prompted MPIRG to cancel their chapter at the college.[1][2]

Accomplishments[edit]

  • 1972: Conducted a joint study with local unions and state AFL-CIO that resulted in a ban of the use of asbestos in new building construction.
  • 1974: Helped pass legislation requiring lobbyists to register and disclose spending and contributions.
  • 1977: MPIRG research and legislation created a state ban on fluorocarbons.
  • 1978: Passed the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act to create the nation's sole 'paddle-only' wilderness area.
  • 1983: Sued Northwestern Bell to reduce telephone rates by $69.1 million.
  • 1984: Mobilized 10,000 citizens statewide to stop the siting of a high-level radioactive waste dump in Minnesota.
  • 1985: Established a statewide, toll-free Tenant/Landlord hotline.
  • 1986: Worked with farmers, sports enthusiasts and environmentalists to establish the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) program.
  • 1987: Prevented the deregulation of small business and residential phone service.
  • 1988: Re-established the Renters Credit property tax refund, which had been cut 33%.
  • 1989: MPIRG passed the New and Used Car Lemon Laws and obtains $650,000 for consumers in a Solar Tax Credit Class Action lawsuit.
  • 1990: Banned the dumping of low-level nuclear waste in landfills and incinerators; helped to draft and pass the Minnesota Pollution Prevention Act to reduce toxic air emissions.
  • 1992: MPIRG's BARTER project established Minnesota's first solid waste materials exchange. The exchange assists businesses in reducing their waste through reuse and exchange.
  • 1993: Minnesota court of appeals rules in MPIRG's favor on Prairie Island radioactive waste storage case. Dry cask storage must have legislative approval and be considered permanent.
  • 1994: Passed the strongest legislation in the nation to stop Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), which are filed against citizen activists who publicly oppose proposed policies or projects.
  • 1996: Passed truth in environmental advertising legislation that it drafted in and first introduced in 1983.
  • 1998: Successfully lobbied for allocation of $4 million to Metro Greenways and Natural Areas Project.
  • 1999: MPIRG's lobby campaign results in allocation of $8 million for the Inclusionary Housing Fund to create mixed income housing in Minnesota.
  • 2000: MPIRG successfully lobbied for $110 million comprehensive package of environmental investments in the Legacy Initiative.
  • 2001: Secured increases in the amount spent on energy conservation and raised requirements for energy efficiency in publicly funded buildings as a part of the POWER Campaign (People Organizing for Workers the Environment and Ratepayers).
  • 2002: Won a campaign at the University of Minnesota to ensure that all apparel is sweatshop free with the signing of a Code of Conduct.
  • 2006: Worked with the Better Ballot Campaign to bring instant-runoff voting to Minneapolis city elections. IRV passed as a ballot referendum by 65%.
  • 2007: Produced the Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler's groundbreaking play, and raised over $110,000 for women's shelters and advocacy.
  • 2007: MPIRG worked with the Clean Energy MN Coalition to help pass a Renewable Electricity Standard for MN. The RES sets a requirement that a growing percentage of power generation must come from new renewable energy resources until we reach 25% by 2025.
  • 2008: Helped influence University of Minnesota President Robert H. Bruininks to sign the President's Climate Commitment.
  • 2009: MPIRG worked with the Healthy Legacy Coalition to make Minnesota the first state to phase-out the use of Bisphenol A (BPA), a known[3] endocrine disruptor and carcinogen, from use in children's products.
  • 2012: Worked to defeat ballot initiatives that would alter the state constitution to restrict same-sex marriage and require valid photo identification in elections. Both amendments were voted down.

Chapters[edit]

MPIRG has chapters at 6 colleges and universities across the state of Minnesota. They are:

References[edit]

Additional Resources[edit]

  1. ^ http://themacweekly.com/2014/11/referendum-on-mpirg-contract-to-be-held-next-week/
  2. ^ http://www.twincities.com/education/ci_26969904/macalester-students-reject-mpirg-campus
  3. ^ http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/sya/sya-bpa/