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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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