Protestors gathered outside the Duluth Pack store in Canal Park on Monday during a visit from Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, Eighth District U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber (R), and other administration officials.

The president’s daughter and others were in town to highlight Duluth Pack’s signing of the Pledge to America’s Workers, a program the administration launched in 2018, before the recessionary trend caused by the breakout and mishandling of COVID earlier this year.

Some protestors highlighted this botched response to the pandemic outside the store, while another group sang and drummed in honor of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Ivanka Trump was reportedly going to open the first MMIW cold case office, “only no one told me, the author and chair of Minnesota’s MMIWG Task Force,” tweeted Minnesota 41B State Rep. Mary Kunesh. “If [the president] and Ivanka want to make a difference, make Congress pass the 2020 Violence Against Women Act, invest in affordable housing, health care and education!”

According to the Minnesota Secretary of State, a record number of Minnesotans have requested absentee ballots for this year’s election. It appears that pandemic fears as well as convenience are driving demand and it’s expected to continue through Election Day.
In the meantime, though, voters in Duluth have a rare DFL primary to get through, as incumbent state Sen. Erik Simonson is facing a challenge from a first-time candidate.
The Duluth Central Labor Body endorsed Simonson while Senate District 7 DFL picked a different candidate. The endorsement split was the latest race in which the party unit increasingly finds itself focusing on a single issue when making endorsing decisions.
Simonson was elected to the Senate in 2016 and served in the state house four years before that. He has routinely taken the lead on education, affordable healthcare, economic development and Labor issues.
Simonson has received a slew of endorsements besides Labor, including former congressman Rick Nolan, former Minnesota lieutenant governor Yvonne Prettner Solon, former state senator Roger Reinert, several former and current city councilors and others.
“Erik Simonson has served as a strong leader on all sorts of issues that the Union members in Duluth care about,” said CLB President Beth McCuskey.
“He’s brought jobs to the city and worked to make health care more affordable to all. He stands with Labor and Labor stands with him,” McCuskey said. 
“With so much at stake, Duluth needs Erik Simonson in the Legislature,” said Craig Olson, president of the Duluth Construction and Building Trades Council. “He’s a solid advocate for the Labor community and his experience and leadership gets things done.” 
Simonson is currently serving as assistant minority leader in the Senate, and he also serves on the Environment and Natural Resources Finance committee, the Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee, and is the ranking minority member on the Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy committee.
As the legislature reconvenes for its second special session and possibly considers a 2020 bonding bill, Simonson will be advocating hard for Duluth.
While it’s not too late to request an absentee ballot, people who have not voted yet should not get too complacent about how much time is left before the August 11 primary. Absentee ballots can also be returned in person to the county clerk’s office. Otherwise, make plans to vote in the primary at your regular polling place.

There was some hope it wouldn’t have to happen, but it was fading by the day, and attendees to the July Duluth Central Labor Body meeting were told the committee had decided to cancel this year’s Labor Day picnic.
The annual event, which routinely draws hundreds of people and marks the end of summer in Duluth, would be difficult to hold with pandemic restrictions such as social distancing and masks.
Duluth’s Labor Day picnic, is an essential stop for stumping candidates and a staple for anyone who likes free beer and corn-on-the-cob on a late-summer afternoon, but pandemic restrictions and economic uncertainty make for difficult planning, and the general agreement is that trying to hold a picnic at this time would not be feasible.

The body held its July meeting in the back parking lot of the Labor Temple, where attendees were able to take advantage of a cool breeze on a mellow summer evening. Masks were required at sign-in and encouraged during the meeting.
At this time, the body is planning on holding its August meeting outside as well, and one of the items on the agenda will be discussing whether to move meetings to 6:30 p.m. from 7 p.m.

ST. PAUL — Five months after the Coronavirus first arrived in the U.S., critical supply shortages persist for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including masks and gowns.
The continuing risks faced by health care workers and the continuing shortages of PPE led the Minnesota Nurses Association to join other organizations in urging Governor Tim Walz to continue his exercise of emergency powers.
In a June 10 letter to Walz, MNA president Mary Turner, R.N., wrote:
“As a representative of over 22,000 nurses primarily in the state of Minnesota, the Minnesota Nurses Association encourages you and lawmakers to extend the peacetime state of emergency that has allowed and would continue to allow the emergency response of the administrative branch to monitor and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to plague us.”
“While much has changed for ordinary citizens over the last few months, nothing has changed for nurses and healthcare workers in our state. Nurses are still being forced to wear the same, single use mask for hours after they’ve been contaminated, use the same mask between COVID patients and non COVID patients, and rely on unproven sanitizing procedures (i.e. infrared cleaning and paper bags) to assure them and their patients that their equipment is safe. Nurses are still being disciplined or fired over the use of hospital scrubs.”
“Nurses are still bringing the COVID virus home to their families and into the community because of a lack of precautions taken by health care facilities. As a result, healthcare workers are still one of the occupations most at risk for becoming infected, which at last check was still above 10 percent of all cases. Many of these workers are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, who work the essential and unprotected jobs in healthcare facilities from nurses’ aides to environmental services.”
“Without the peacetime emergency, Governor Walz and [the Minnesota Department of Health] will not be able to further address these issues, make recommendations on pre-crisis standards for healthcare workers or ‘turn back the dial’ as necessary when there is a resurgence of cases and we run out of healthcare workers, equipment and hospital beds to care for COVID patients.”
Two days after MNA’s letter, on the first day of the legislature’s recent special session, Governor Walz issued an executive order to extend the COVID-19 peacetime emergency until July 13.
The Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate voted 39-29 (with three DFL votes) to prevent the extension.
But the DFL-controlled Minnesota House voted 73-61 to support the extension, allowing it to continue. (A majority vote in both Senate and House was needed to block the peacetime emergency).