The Duluth Central Labor Body will be holding its traditional Workers Memorial Day pancake breakfast at the Labor Temple in Duluth on Monday, April 26. The breakfast will be served from 7-9 a.m.; indoor seating and takeout options will be available. At 9:15 a.m., there will be a tree-planting ceremony behind the Labor Temple to remember fallen workers. If you would like to volunteer in any way for the event, please contact Renee Van Nett at rvannett (at)

Minnesota’s oldest and newest union breweries have teamed up to craft a beer celebrating solidarity in the workplace.
Union Lager is a collaborative brew by Fair State in the Twin Cities, where workers formed a union with UNITE HERE Local 17 last summer, and August Schell in New Ulm, where union members have been brewing beer since the 1930s. They currently are represented by the Steelworkers union.
The beer is crisp and moderately hoppy – a “crusher,” Fair State says on its website. Local 17 member Ian Sutherland, who uses plural pronouns, said the Union Lager is moving steadily in Fair State’s northeast Minneapolis taproom, where they work behind the bar.
“It’s beautiful,” Sutherland added. “It’s a good blend of hoppy and malty. It has a little of the hard-water profile, a little minerally. It’s a very good sessionable lager.”
Crafting lagers is a passion shared by the brewers and friends behind the collaboration, Fair State’s Niko Tonks and Schell’s Jace Marti.
When he saw the news Fair State workers had unionized last September, Marti quickly fired off a text message to Tonks. “I said congratulations on being unionized,” Marti said. “Let’s do a collaboration.”
It’s not often management celebrates its workers’ decision to form a union, let alone markets a new product around the news. But Fair State’s historic union drive was unique from the start.
Organizing was already afoot when Sutherland began bartending in June of last year. Within three months, enough workers at the taproom and Fair State’s St. Paul brewery were on board to petition management for voluntary recognition of their union, which they did the morning after Labor Day.
“Our brewer is kind of a neighborhood brewery now, but it’s starting to do some national distribution,” Sutherland said. “Our thinking was maybe it was time to cement some power in a union as we start to make the trek toward a larger-scale brewery.”
Fair State’s chief executive, Evan Sallee, immediately embraced the idea, Sutherland said. A day later, after consulting with the board of member-owners, Sallee celebrated Fair State becoming the nation’s first unionized microbrewery in an open letter on the cooperative’s website.
Sutherland said workers have been pleasantly surprised to see their union “become so integral” to Fair State’s identity. “It’s a cool thing that cements our place in the workplace,” they said.
Even better, Fair State has backed up its branding both at the table and on the shop floor.
Progress toward a first contract covering the union’s 20-plus members has been steady. Sutherland credited Local 17 Secretary-Treasurer Sheigh Freeberg with “playing the role of advocate for us and educator for both sides” as Fair State workers and managers familiarize themselves with the process.

The question everyone is trying to answer in bargaining, Sutherland said, is how to balance “the nimbleness required of a craft brewery” with a union contract.

“That’s the challenge, but it’s definitely headed in a direction that feels really healthy,” Sutherland added. “People are realizing if you want something to change, we have real power to try to make that happen.”

Whether the Union Lager will be available for a toast to Fair State workers’ first contract, whenever it’s settled, remains to be seen.

The two breweries developed their own batches and labels for the beer. Fair State’s product hit shelves first, and Tonks, Fair State’s founding brewer, said liquor stores snatched up their local distributor’s allotment in about a week.

“That’s fast,” Tonks laughed. “Response has been strong, and it’s pretty much gone.”

Fortunately for anyone who missed out, Schell’s batch should be ready for sale sometime this month. And Tonks said both brewers are looking for an excuse – contract ratification, perhaps? – to brew it again.

Marti said he isn’t surprised by the Union Lager’s success. The collaboration seemed to him charmed from Day 1, when he and Tonks decided to take their inspiration from the Westphalian Pale Lager, a German beer made famous by the now-defunct Dortmunder Union Brewery.

“It was known as a hard-working beer, a blue-collar drinking beer,” Marti said. “It all fit perfectly.”

The days are longer and the snow is melting, which means it’s time to help clean up the Labor Temple grounds.
The Spring Clean Up is scheduled for Saturday, April 17, from 8 a.m. to noon.
Maintaining this building takes a lot of effort and helps minimize expenses. It’s a long-standing tradition to help clean up the Labor Temple in the spring. We’ve got plenty of projects for any skill level to keep you busy. Please bring rakes, shovels, brooms and gloves. Refreshments will be provided. We hope to see you there! If necessary, the weather make-up day will be April 24.

Washington, DC –The AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust (HIT) announced that Chris Coleman presided at his first meeting as new Chair of its Board of Trustees today. Coleman, elected by the HIT’s union and public pension fund investors, is President and CEO of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. The St. Paul, Minnesota native served as mayor of that city from 2006 to 2018.
The HIT is a fixed-income, investment grade mutual fund with $6.8 billion in assets. Established by the AFL-CIO, the HIT has been a leader for more than 35 years in putting labor’s capital to work to seek competitive returns and achieve mission-related collateral objectives.
“Chris Coleman is a highly respected leader in all aspects of the HIT’s mission,” said Chang Suh, HIT’s CEO. “He brings to our Board an extraordinary record of achievement in impact investment, job creation, affordable and workforce housing, social justice and racial equity. As St. Paul’s mayor, Chris built important partnerships with the Twin Cities’ labor unions, including the local Building and Construction Trades, in one of the HIT’s most active markets.”
“I am enormously proud to help lead the HIT into the fourth decade of its mission to achieve competitive fixed-income returns, while creating good union jobs for working families and improving the nation’s affordable housing stock, particularly in this time of urgent need,” Coleman said.
In his three terms as St. Paul’s mayor, Coleman oversaw numerous economic development projects that included the Green Line light rail, St. Paul’s baseball park CHS Field, the professional soccer stadium Allianz Field, the Palace Theater, and the Penfield Apartments, a HIT investment. He improved the city of St. Paul’s hiring and procurement practices to create a workforce that mirrors the city’s diverse population. Coleman successfully fought to require that any new housing constructed using public resources must keep at least 20% of its units affordable to low-income residents.
As President and CEO of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity since 2018, Coleman oversees the organization’s efforts to build the quality of life, health, and economic prosperity of the seven-county metro region by producing, preserving, and advocating for affordable housing.
From 2013 to 2014, Coleman was the President of the National League of Cities. There he led the group’s successful efforts for education opportunities, environmental sustainability, and public infrastructure.
Prior to his election as Mayor, Coleman served for six years on the St. Paul City Council. He was also an investment advisor for RBC Dain Rauscher, specializing in non-profit organizations and endowments. Previously, he served as a public defender and prosecutor for Hennepin County, Minnesota.