The Duluth Central Labor Body monthly meeting is expected to be held virtually again in June. Candidate screenings are scheduled to be held at before the meeting for state House districts 3B, 7A and 7B, as well as county commissioner. The screenings will be held at 5:30 p.m. before the regular meeting at 7 p.m. Contact Alan Netland at alan@nealc.org if you are a candidate interested in seeking the Labor endorsement and have not yet received a screening questionnaire, or for information on how to screen or participate, or visit this post on Facebook.

In addition, the Labor Day picnic is still being planned for, although it’s likely there will be some form of social distancing required at the event.
But this means the planning committee is looking for volunteers and donations, so please reach out if you’re interested in helping.

State Sen. Erik Simonson, who garnered Labor’s endorsement earlier this election cycle, will be facing a primary challenge from Jen McEwen after the DFL endorsed her at a virtual convention.
Simonson, whose Labor vote rating is more than 90 percent, also serves as an assistant minority leader in the Senate. “I have worked hard to build relationships across the aisle, among stakeholders, and I am a believer that effective policy is more important than politics,” he said in a statement announcing his intent to run in the primary, which will be held August 11.

The DFL adopted a virtual platform for senate district, congressional district and its state conventions to make it easier for participants to comply with the governor’s stay-at-home recommendations and includes online voting or mail-in ballot options.

Simonson described the process as “confusing” because of the unusual circumstances.

Meanwhile, balloting has begun for the DFL’s District 8 endorsing convention, which is also being held virtually. The three candidates are Quinn Nystrom, Gaylene Spolarich and Soren Sorensen. Balloting ends May 23, and the party expects to hold a virtual state convention at the end of May.

Social distancing requirements and limits on large gatherings will pose challenges for candidates and coordinated campaigns alike in the coming months. As the campaign season progresses, watch for news about how to get involved and turn out for Labor candidates.

As Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz “turns the dial” on some restrictions on business and socializing, unions are trying to keep up with changing regulations and recommendations to keep workers safe.
For many, the main concern is ensuring personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers as they do their jobs.
“With the lapse in the ‘Stay at Home’ order and the move to a less restrictive ‘Stay Safe’ order, the Minnesota Nurses Association urges state officials, hospital administrators, and all Minnesotans to protect healthcare workers and each other by increasing our supply of PPE, dramatically expanding capacity for COVID-19 virus testing, and continuing to social distance,” said Mary C. Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association.
“Failure to protect each other will result in a dramatic spike in positive cases, overload hospitals, and cause the very caregivers we need to succumb to the virus themselves,” she said.
The union has reservations regarding the timing of lifting the state’s shelter-in-place orders, which were set to expire Monday, May 18. “At a time when hospitals continue to dangerously ration PPE, new supply lines have not appeared in state warehouses, and the Minnesota Department of Health still cannot show that testing has dramatically increased,” Turner said.
The union plans a protest at the State Capitol on Wednesday, May 20, to call attention to the lack of PPE. Members will start the march at United Hospital, where an ER nurse was fired last week after being fired for violating hospital policy regarding uniforms and scrubs. He said he was trying to protect his family by not wearing his hospital scrubs home.
The march will then proceed to the capitol while participants follow social distance recommendations.
Turner struck a cautious note while acknowledging the difficulties of keeping businesses closed. “Nurses also hope to re-open Minnesota businesses as soon as possible, but, just as many other Minnesotans have expressed, it’s not possible to do so without jeopardizing the safety of healthcare workers and all Minnesotans,” she said. “Nurses believe that the decision to turn the dial to re-open Minnesota requires every Minnesotan to turn the dial to find more PPE, more beds, and more tests while protecting healthcare workers and each other.”

Part of Walz’s actions last week included an executive order protecting workers who report safety issues from employer retaliation. Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy hailed that move, saying it’s vital that workers are empowered to report unsafe working conditions.

“The simple truth is that our economy cannot rebound unless employers are held accountable to implement safety measures to protect both workers and public health,” he said. “Failing to do so would result in more workers falling sick and even more economic damage.”

In retail settings, many grocery stores are supplying masks to employees, and Jennifer Christensen, president of UFCW Local 1189, told MPR news that when employees wear masks, that can raise the expectation among customers that wearing masks is the right thing to do.

Cloth masks can help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, and some stores are requiring both workers and customers to wear them.

“If you go into a store where all of the workers are wearing masks, then customers really feel as though that’s the expectation of the store and that it’s doing the right thing to wear their mask,” Christensen told MPR. “As masks become more available, more customers will be wearing them.”

As with all workers, Christensen stressed that grocery store workers want to work in a safe environment and customers can help in that regard.

“[They] just want to get through their day, do the job they’re supposed to do and get home safe to their families,” Christensen told MPR. “They want to be alive, they want to keep their mother alive and their children. They want to be there for the next wedding and graduation.”

WASHINGTON (PAI)—Top union leaders, marshalled by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, are backing the $3.6 billion in the House Democrats’ stimulus bill to pay states to establish vote-by-mail systems – and the measure’s mandate they do so.
But whether the unionists’ statements, plus wide public support for the idea, will be enough to sway either GOP President Donald Trump or the overwhelming majority of the Senate’s ruling Republicans, remains to be seen. Both Trump and the solons fear that the more people vote, as Trump put, the more the Republicans lose at the polls.
Vote-by-mail money is in the $3 trillion House Democratic economic stimulus bill, potentially scheduled for a vote on May 15. Senate sponsor Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., joined Trumka and union presidents on a May 13 telephone press conference to push it.
Congress needs to pass it now, Klobuchar said, so states have enough time to set up and test-run their vote-by-mail registrations, procedures and systems.
Vote-by-mail will help “the front-line workers – the nurses, those who are driving trucks and in grocery stores and others, who are working from home and have kids there” due to shelter-in-place policies the coronavirus pandemic mandated, Klobuchar said. Voters also don’t want to risk health or lives to the virus’s community spread by waiting in long lines.
That’s what happened in the Wisconsin Democratic primary, she noted. The GOP-run state lawmakers forced voters to stand and 72 voters and one election judge got sick. By contrast, 1.1 million mail ballots swamped Badger State election officials beforehand.
That’s no surprise. In the 2018 off-year election, turnout as a percentage of eligible voters zoomed, especially in those states with vote-by-mail, such as Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and California. It also rose substantially in states such as Minnesota and Illinois, which have same-day voter registration. Younger voters and women in particular cast ballots.
And the high turnout, combined with a horde of progressive female candidates seeking U.S. House seats, and anger against Trump and the GOP – even before the
coronavirus pandemic hit – combined to produce an enormous shift of House seats to Democrats, along with House control and election of a horde of pro-worker lawmakers.

State legislative and gubernatorial votes saw similar results, except in states – like Georgia and Florida – with rampant GOP-pushed voter suppression efforts, heavily gerrymandered legislatures, or both.

All this makes enacting vote-by-mail the first top cause of Labor 2020, its election effort, Trumka said. “In the middle of a global pandemic, we must make it easier to vote than ever before,” he explained. The $3.6 billion for vote-by-mail and $25 billion more for the Postal Service – so carriers can deliver and pick up ballots, along with other mail – “are investments in our democracy.” Even GOP governors in Ohio and New Hampshire agree, Klobuchar said.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders pointed out the bias of foes of vote by mail against both workers and people of color. “Of the ten states that have the strictest ‘voter ID’ laws” – the now-generic name for all sorts of voter suppression – “nine are right-to-work states.” RTW laws, a favorite corporate and right-wing cause, deprive unions of funds by letting workers use union services without paying one red cent for them.

Those states also “want to muzzle poor people and people of color,” said Saunders. Foes “can’t win on the merits, so they game the system.” Vote-by-mail stops such tactics.

Trump vehemently opposes vote-by-mail and his top aide/son-in-law, Jared Kushner, recently suggested in Time magazine that “I don’t know if we’re even going to have an election,” said Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, a New York City civics teacher. 

Trump himself, before the pandemic hit, suggested during a speech in the Pittsburgh area calling off the vote and giving him a second, third or even fourth term in the White House.
“We will have an election,” Weingarten retorted. “And we have to ensure our elections are free, fair and open to all. That’s why” vote-by-mail “is so important.”