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Mayor Don Ness Banned From Duluth Labor Temple???

Category: Labor
Posted: 09/30/15 15:21

by Dave Mindeman

Here's a head scratcher....Duluth Mayor Don Ness has been banned for life from the Duluth Labor Temple. Huh?

Here's the explanation from Mayor Ness' Facebook page:

"Here's the situation: a friend invited me to lunch at JJ Astor. On my way to the restaurant, I saw an informational picket by the building trades. I stopped to talk to the guys and they explained about their conflict related to the renovations of the hotel rooms. I told them I was concerned and that I'd see if there was anything I could do. Then I went to lunch at a union restaurant staffed by union employees.

Let me stress this point - the union restaurant that I went to was staffed by union employees who all crossed the very same informational picket line. The picket is NOT directed at the restaurant and their management. According to the Labor World, restaurant management "has been good, even offering 15% discounts to union members using the JJ Astor restaurant.

Union employees of the restaurant are able to cross this informational picket in order to keep their jobs recognizing the difference between the hotel and the restaurant. Union employees were crossing this picket line because the leaders themselves acknowledge the difference between the hotel and the restaurant AND between an informational picket and a strike! If this was a strike, I absolutely would NOT have crossed the line.

It was a full 10 days later that I read in the Labor World that I had been banned from the Labor Temple. The people who brought forward this extreme position did not have the courage to bring their concerns to me. Not even a phone call, email... nothing.

As mayor, I have always put my priority on what is best for Duluth and sometimes that means that I have disagreements with labor leaders. I don't apologize for that. I'm proud of that independence. But as a result, a small handful of labor leaders are always looking for opportunities to attack or embarrass me politically. This is just another unfortunate example."

The Mayor of a major city always has to juggle his or her responsibilities to the city and, if a Democrat, his or her support for labor. I have always felt that Mayor Don Ness has bent over backward to meet labor needs. He has even proposed tax increases so that city union employees could continue to get raises.

It is difficult to make an argument that makes Don Ness any kind of enemy of labor. But because of, what looks like, a misunderstanding, labor leaders in Duluth acting pretty hastily and harshly.

Labor is going through a trying time these days. Membership is down and the attacks from the right have been severe. But this is not a time to be "punishing" allies over small issues.

Yesterday's District 3A special election also had some divisive overtones; as an element of labor vs the environment was evident in the campaign and in the results.

Yes, there is a difference of opinion on the mining issue in Northern Minnesota....and yes, it can get heated at times. But mining companies are no friend to labor or the environment. These corporations should be held accountable to both sides of this issue....which means labor and environmentalists need to find common ground.

I think that common ground is to look to the jobs of renewable energy and a more diversified economy for the region.

Mayor Ness may be banned from the labor temple but I doubt he will ever stop being a friend to the labor movement.

Let's try to have an honest perspective on these things.
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Overtime And the Real Value Of Work

Category: Labor
Posted: 07/13/15 02:17

by Dave Mindeman

In a Strib Commentary, James Sherk offers reasons why Obama's overtime rules will be a "bad" thing. He tells us that employers will simply drop the salary status for these workers, force them to log in their actual hours, and then lower their pay, so that they end up with the same assigned salary anyway.

Well, Mr. Sherk's name is an appropriate one to put on this theory because what he is saying is that business will try to "shirk" its responsibility to its employees.

Whenever something is proposed that could be a benefit to workers, there always seems to be some conservative analyst with an all too convenient "work around" the rule that magically benefits the employer.

Does business think so little about its employees that it really strives to take advantage of every opportunity to forego as much compensation as possible?

That is what Mr. Sherk seems to be suggesting....

So when the government requires employers to pay extra for overtime hours, they do -- and reduce base wages by about the same amount. Workers' weekly take-home pay changes little.

Employers seem to be getting the advantage either way. They can give an employee a salaried position and then guilt them into working an insane number of weekly hours....or they can pay by the hour, make them work over 40 anyway, but at a reduced hourly salary.

Really? Have employee-employer relationships become that cynical?

I will admit that in this union diminished work environment, a number of employers will take advantage of their "options" to always keep employee salaries to the employer's advantage. But you would think that a hard working valuable employee would be worthy of a reward for their labors.

At least that's what they tell you when you get hired on.

Mr. Sherk works for the Heritage Foundation - the think tank that only the Chamber of Commerce could love.

If employers truly act like Mr. Sherk is contending, then the value of work has been greatly diminished and the need for unions has been proven beyond all doubt.

Let's just ponder that for a moment.
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If Business Can't Pay A Fair Wage, Then It Should Fail

Category: Labor
Posted: 05/20/15 11:22

by Dave Mindeman

While perusing through headlines this morning, I came across the possibility that Los Angeles has put forward a $15 minimum wage.

Immediately the conservative bells and whistles went off and the ever popular argument of lost jobs for the people who need it most went out far and wide.

Well I'm getting tired of this rhetoric.

Yes, some jobs will probably be cut because of the higher wage, but let me say this. Maybe it is time we get rid of a business model that depends on substandard wages to survive. Let that business model die. Let it end.

If a worker has to live in poverty and get welfare benefits to survive, while he or she is working full time....how to we intellectually justify that?

Conservatives talk about a "culture of dependency" in welfare. Well, it is hard to break that culture when working (full time, meaningful work) gives you no chance of moving out of that culture.

And maybe it is time that business stop trying to suppress wage increases as the means to please their shareholders. It is almost embarrassing to see the gap between the pay of CEO's and their average employee expand beyond reasonable means. How can a country that promotes "upward mobility" provide so many road blocks for that path?

Business is always saying that the market should provide the "minimum wage"....that a government mandate only hurts job creation. Well, in one sense, I agree - we shouldn't need a minimum wage. Anybody who is paid the current minimum wage is not making a living. They are subsisting and often would be better off not working at all - especially if they have kids.

Poverty wages (which the minimum wage is) should not exist in a country that supposedly "values" work. That wants its citizens to work to pay for their own way.

But if any of that is to happen, the business community needs to examine the reality of how they truly value their employees. If the $15 movement is necessary to move minimum wage workers out of poverty, then it needs our support. Businesses should be forward thinking enough to make that push unnecessary.

Americans see the exploitation of workers beyond our borders. We have allowed business to use that exploitation to expand profits. But if we need to take a stand against that exploitation somewhere, then let us at least start here at home.

Yes, some jobs will be lost. Business has no loyalties - they don't have a moral code. Business is just business. But American citizens should stand against exploitation of workers. We are better than corporate standards. We have to think of our own country's bottom line as well. There is no reason the American taxpayer should subsidize low wages. None.

If business cannot pay a fair wage, then that business should fail. It is as simple as that.

Nobody is going to get rich on $15 an hour - but it might buy some dignity. I think that is only fair.
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