Pence visits; USW responds to mayors’ letter

A visit from Mike Pence, a letter from some mayors and a response from a union put northeastern Minnesota on the national political map at the end of August.
Pence did a quick fly-in visit to Duluth to drum up support for Trump and his economic policies, speaking at a controlled-access rally at the port terminal under a banner proclaiming “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!”
The Trump administration has continued to offshore manufacturing jobs and plants despite his promise not to, according to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute, and the economy is currently struggling through a recession caused in no small part by mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Nearly 1,800 factories have disappeared during the Trump administration between 2016 and 2018,” the report said.
Pence spoke about mining as well; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. mining industry has lost almost 300,000 jobs since 2014, including 95,000 since last December.

Nevertheless, six mayors from the Iron Range and North Shore released a letter endorsing Trump for reelection and some shared the stage with Pence in Duluth.

“President Trump delivered the best economy in our nation’s history, and President Trump will deliver for us again,” the letter read.

Steelworkers District 11 disagrees. “Our union believes those mayors are misguided and don’t fully understand the nature of the economics of the industry or the Iron Range,” the union responded in an open letter. “Just drive down the main streets of Virginia and Eveleth and count the shutdown businesses. It hardly seems like the ‘roaring back to life’ that these mayors describe.”

The letter was signed by International President Tom Conway, District 11 Director Emil Ramirez, and Staff Representative John Arbogast.

The USW letter said the nation in its “deepest crisis since the Great Depression” and cited the number of people who have caught and died of COVID, condemning Trump’s inaction.

“As a result of the pandemic, almost half of the workers at the Iron Range’s mines were laid off. USS Keetac is still idle and its 260 employees on layoff. Yet somehow, the president and Republican- controlled Senate don’t care enough about Keetac workers or the other 16.3 million Americans who are unemployed to extend enhanced unemployment benefits through the end of the year.”

“President Trump has allied himself and his administration with the wealthy and powerful and against workers and the most vulnerable in our society,” the letter went on. “He’s championed tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, increasing the federal deficit to record levels, but he’s failed to deliver the infrastructure program to rebuild our nation’s crumbling bridges and roads. He has worked to undermine collective bargaining, workplace safety, environmental safeguards, the Affordable Care Act, government ethics, congressional oversight and voting rights.”

The letter ended with an endorsement of Joe Biden for president. “Vice President Joe Biden has long been a friend of workers and our union. He will fight to raise the minimum wage, expand access to affordable health care, stabilize multiemployer pension plans, defend Medicare and Social Security and preserve and expand civil and labor rights. The USW is proud to endorse Joe Biden for president, as he seeks to put our country back on a path toward shared prosperity through responsible leadership.”

Northeastern Minnesota is likely to see more visits throughout the coming months. Don Trump Jr. was scheduled to be in Duluth on behalf of his father on Wednesday.

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