Adam Casillas, president of Duluth, Firefighters Local 101, held a press conference last week backed by union members and supporters to call attention to upcoming negotiations with the city. While the city has committed to increasing training budgets, Casillas called attention to the changes in health plans enacted by the city and said administrators seem to be pursuing a “quick fix” when it came to healthcare and insurance benefits. “We, as employees, are as invested in Duluth’s financial health and overall sustainability as anyone. We care deeply about this community, and we are committed to it,” Casillas said.

Early absentee voting is available now in the Duluth municipal election.
The election date is Nov. 2, but you can request an absentee ballot application at this time to vote early if you wish. Call 218-730-5900 to request a ballot.
Ballots must be returned to the City Clerk’s office by 3 p.m. on Nov. 2. You cannot return your ballot at a polling location on that day
On the ballot are races for city Councilor At-Large, the Second District and the Fourth District; and Duluth ISD 709 School Board members at-large, District 1 and District 4.
In the City Council race, the Duluth Central Labor Body endorsed current councilor Terese Tomanek for the At-Large position. Tomanek was appointed to finish Barb Russ’ term and is running to retain the seat. In the Second District, the CLB endorsed Dave Zbaracki. In the Fourth District, it endorsed incumbent Renee Van Nett, who is currently president of the council.
In the school board race, the CLB endorsed Amber Sadowski and Kelly Durick Eder in the at-large positions; Rosie Loeffler-Kemp in District 1 and Jill Lofald in District 4.

Members of Bakery Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers Local 22 who work at Old Dutch are gearing up for contract talks this fall, in which they intend to push the company to ease increasingly taxing workloads.
That’s the same rallying cry sounded by union members who went on strike at Frito Lay and Nabisco in other parts of the U.S. this year, drawing nationwide attention.
“We recently had over 50 members in our parking lot on a Saturday morning, their only day off of the week,” Local 22 President Wally Borgen said. “These members are angry because they’re working a lot of overtime, and they say the company doesn’t pay enough to recruit and retain workers.”
The dissatisfaction over unsafe workloads and lack of work-life balance among food-processing workers, Borgen said, “has spread to Local 22 in a big way.”
Borgen said negotiations with Old Dutch have been respectful in recent years, giving him hope Local 22 can avoid the drastic measures Nabisco and Frito Lay forced workers to take.
But Local 22 members in other bargaining units might not be so lucky.
Cub Foods’ parent company, UNFI, is threatening to stop paying into a union pension fund covering about 230 bakers at corporate-owned stores in Minnesota, according to Local 22, which began contract negotiations with UNFI last month.
Not all Cub Foods stores in the Twin Cities are owned by UNFI.
“They’re not talking about bargaining about it; their lawyer just informed us on the first day of negotiations that they are withdrawing from our pension fund the 1st of the year,” Borgen said. “Our pension is fully funded at 104%. There’s no reason to pull out of a great benefit for these workers.”
Additionally, three members of Local 22 have filed grievances accusing UNFI of stealing paid vacation hours. It’s a slap in the face, Borgen said, to workers who have kept bakery shelves stocked in grocery stores during the pandemic.
In some good news for Local 22, grain millers stood together and won significant pay raises at two General Mills elevators in Minneapolis earlier this month.
Union members voted unanimously to authorize a strike Sept. 9, after
management refused to put more money into wages during negotiations that began in June. Within a week of the strike vote, General Mills had upped the offer, and Local 22 members had a new, four-year contract with 3% raises in the first and second years. — Michael Moore, St. Paul Union Advocate

WASHINGTON (PAI)—National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo has told agency officials that athletes at private colleges and universities are “employees” who can organize and bargain collectively — blasting the concept of a “student-athlete.”
And not only their colleges would have to respond, she said. The ruling body of college athletics, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) could in some cases be a “joint employer” with the university or college, equally responsible for obeying or breaking labor law, Abruzzo warned in a footnote late in her nine-page memo.
While players receive “stipends” to cover their tuition, room and board, the colleges and their coaches control virtually every facet of their time on campus, and can also decide whether to cut fire them. That means the schools and coaches are, effectively, employers.
College athletes tried to unionize before, with an organizing drive several years ago by the Steelworkers among football players at a top private university in Los Angeles being the first shot.
More recently, football players at Northwestern University in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Ill., voted to unionize, and NLRB Chicago Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr had ruled for them. Key issues were not the stipends, but complete control coaches and administrators have over players’ class schedules, course selection, practice times, interaction with other students and—most importantly—treatment of and compensation for injuries.
Northwestern and the NCAA appealed that ruling by Ohr, now Abruzzo’s deputy, to the full NLRB during a GOP majority’s reign. It ducked the case. But in her memo, Abruzzo said that board left the ultimate unionization issue open.
And since then, there’s been further erosion of the student-athlete myth. Abruzzo cited football and basketball players organizing on their own to speak out for the Black Lives Matter movement and against coaches’ demands they come to practice and play on campuses despite the coronavirus pandemic—which forced those institutions to bar regular students.
There’s also been employer retribution against players who spoke out, Abruzzo reported. Other bosses fire pro-union workers during and after organizing drives. She cited a
September 2021 lawsuit filed by a Washington State University football player whose coach had cut him “for his support of the #WeAreUnited movement.”
“The concern about retaliation is very real,” Abruzzo laconically noted.
But Abruzzo particularly cited an unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling that college athletes have the right to organize, hire agents, and bargain with corporate sponsors to get paid for use of their “names, images and likenesses” on shoes, jerseys and other memorabilia.
“The freedom to engage in far-reaching and lucrative business enterprises makes players at academic institutions much more similar to professional athletes employed by a team to play a sport, while simultaneously pursuing business ventures to capitalize on their fame and increase their income,” Abruzzo said.

And while concurring in the High Court ruling, Justice Brett Kavanaugh openly said the next step could be to let the athletes unionize, she pointed out.

Kavanaugh “suggested one mechanism by which colleges and students could resolve the difficult questions regarding compensation is by ‘engag[ing] in collective bargaining,’” Abruzzo wrote (her emphasis).

“In NCAA v. Alston, the Supreme Court…recognized college sports is a profit-making enterprise and rejected the NCAA’s antitrust defense based in the notion of amateurism in college athletics,” Abruzzo, a former top counsel for the Communications Workers, explained.

“The court held NCAA rules limiting certain education-related compensation schools may offer athletes, such as rules that limit scholarships for graduate or vocational school, payments for academic tutoring, or paid post-eligibility internships, violate antitrust law,” she said. Though the justices didn’t discuss athletic scholarships and stipends, they “rejected the notion that NCAA compensation restrictions are ‘forevermore’ lawful.”

And Kavanaugh “strongly suggested the NCAA’s remaining compensation rules also violate antitrust laws and questioned ‘whether the NCAA and its member colleges can continue to justify not paying student athletes a fair share’ of the billions of dollars they generate,” she added. Basketball and football earned Northwestern alone $30 million in yearly revenue, and $8 million in profits, Ohr found. That was one of the smaller revenue sums in college athletics.

The NCAA has waged a long war, in courts and Congress, against unionization and pay for players. It also sets contract terms, Abruzzo wrote. That could make it a joint employer.  

“Because players…perform services for, and are subject to the control of, the NCAA and their athletic conference, in addition to their college or university, in appropriate circum- stances I will consider pursuing a joint employer theory of liability. As one commentator explained, the NCAA exercises strict control over players, beginning with establishing eligibility standards and terms” governing how “they may enter the workforce (athletic team).” Those include “unilateral contract terms in the ‘Student-Athlete Agreement,’ detailed recruitment rules, and extensive compliance requirements, which can result in termination if violated.”