Labor-endorsed candidates picked up five victories in the eight Duluth positions earlier this week. 

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson and incumbent At-Large City Councilor Arik Foresman were re-elected to their seats. Janet Kennedy won the 5th District City Council race, becoming the first black city councilor in Duluth’s history. 

At-Large City Councilor Noah Hobbs was not re-elected, and Theresa O’Halloran-Johnson lost to Roz Randorf in the 3rd District City Council race. Derek Medved won the other At-Large seat, and Gary Anderson beat Becky Hall in the First District.

David Kirby was re-elected to the Second District seat on the Duluth School Board, and Paul Sandholm was elected to the Third District seat. John Schwetman lost to incumbent Alanna Oswald in the At-Large seat on the school board.

In Cloquet, Chris Swanson advanced in the special primary for the 3rd District City Council race.

After 40 years, Mike Sundin says it’s time to be done. The longtime business market development consultant for Painters Local 106 is retiring.
“I just hope my work sets an example as well and is counted among those who did good things.”
Sundin spent a couple of decades as a drywall finisher, moving into commercial painting. About 10 years ago, he moved into representation and organizing for the district council, which he describes as rewarding. He also served on the Cloquet School Board for five years.
He’ll still be involved in the DFL and in political work as State Representative for District 11A; he’s also chair of the Labor Committee.
Sundin said his activism started in high school. “I was a delegate to the county convention and supported Scoop Jackson,” he said. Warren Karlstad, a high school civics teacher, was a friend of his father, and he learned a lot from him, Sundin said.
“It was from him that I first heard about the open shop/closed shop system,” he said. “And of course, anyone with a social conscience can make that decision.”
Sundin doesn’t shy away from talk of a social conscience. At Central Labor Body meetings, where he is a delegate, his voice often rises above others during the opening Pledge of Allegiance, “with peace and JUSTICE for all.”
Both of his parents were community activists, and he said his mother dragged him to precinct caucuses, telling him on the way, “Oh, by the way, you’re a Democrat.” “My father was not much for political labels but never shirked his responsibility in the community,” he said.

His father-in-law at the time asked him to join the family business and that’s how he became a painter and got a kick-start into trade unionism. He also spent some time Itasca Community College as well as continuing education at Lake Superior College and UMD. He also taught a labor history component to apprentices in Duluth.

Sundin says the BE&K clash in 1989 was a wakeup call for the movement. Rank-and-file members of the Building Trades clashed with the antiunion contractor BE&K in International Falls, which had been brought in to do some work at Boise Cascade. And while he acknowledges rough-and-tumble tactics have given way to tech-based organizing opportunities, Labor must remain vigilant.

When he looks back on his career, Sundin said it’s all about the people. “Mike Kuitu is a huge influence and I admire leaders such as George Sundstrom, among others. Dave Dinehart has the most recent and biggest impact politically, he’s a very honorable man.” He also credited the Building Trades and former Labor World editor Larry Sillanpa, his “trusted scribe,” as big supporters in his political efforts. “If anyone has complaints about my in public service, take it up with them.”

Sundin said he’s looking forward to fishing and spending more time with his family, but acknowledged there’s still plenty to do in the political realm. “Maybe I’m just getting started,” he said.

The union construction industry will again celebrate National Apprenticeship Week next month, but has added a new element to the annual activity.
The fifth annual commemoration will take place from Nov. 11-17, and North Americas Building Trades Unions (NABTU) wants its member unions and workers to promote a slightly different message this year.
The week was created to raise awareness of a wide variety of apprenticeship opportunities – including numerous initiatives beyond the construction industry – that offer an alternative to seeking a college degree.
Each year, NABTU and its signatory contractors invest more than $1.53 billion in a nationwide network of over 20,000 instructors in 1,600 training centers. They provide the highest quality training in the construction industry through registered apprenticeship programs.
This November NABTU is pushing the use of the branded term “National Save Apprenticeship Week,” according to a prepared statement.
There’s a reason: The GOP Trump administration wants to let cut-rate low-paying non-union contractors run apprenticeship training, too.
To counter, NABTU wants all affiliated building trades unions and Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee events to include discussion on how to preserve and protect “the registered apprenticeship system with its long history of producing the safest, most highly trained construction workers in the world,” NABTU said.
In August, the U.S. Department of Labor closed a comment period regarding a new initiative to encourage the expansion of the apprenticeship model.
Part of that plan included the creation of Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs), which would not be held to the same rigid laws and DOL oversight, but rely on “self-monitoring.” The DOL plan allowed for an exemption for the construction industry.
NABTU encouraged its affiliates, their friends and family to support the exemption, but also call for it to become permanent. During the DOL comment period, nearly 325,000 Americans responded by supporting that stand. Now, building trades members await the final ruling from Trump’s DOL regarding IRAPs and the construction industry exemption.
While a decision could be announced at any time, it will likely not take place before or during National Apprenticeship Week due to the recent confirmation of Eugene Scalia as Labor Secretary. That gives unions and workers time to promote “National Save Apprenticeship Week events during the second full week of November.

The events can include tours, training demonstrations or anything else to highlight the value of registered building trades apprenticeship program and the local training center. And NABTU wants its member unions and locals to invite the media, state and local politicians and candidates, teachers, students and parents to visit and discuss the high-quality training.

And it wants local unions and councils to take pictures and video of the training programs, the tours and the events, send them to both NABTU and local media and to post them on social media.

By Jim Embrescia, Cleveland Labor Citizen Writer

The Duluth Central Labor Body will be screening candidates for endorsement in the state Senate District 7 race on Thursday, November 14, before its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. For more information, contact Katie Humphrey at katie@nealc.org.